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Make Real Guitar-Playing Progress In Every Lesson

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How To Nurture Your Child’s Love of and Interest In Music

Sometimes parents say to us their child loves coming to class but they don’t think their child practises enough in between classes. They might also have talked with their child about practising more, and it hasn’t gone down well. To help parents avoid conflict around practise we ask you to consider the following points:

Your child will be more likely to continue with music if you nurture their love and interest in music rather than focusing on how much they practise.

Here at Ultimate School of Music all of our students make progress with their playing. You can see some fantastic playing by our students on our You Tube channel. We want you to realise these results have been achieved without us creating conflict with any student about how much practise to do.

Many of us listen to music to uplift our state of mind and our mood. Similarly this is what we want for our students as they learn to play music! This benefit of learning and playing music for positive mental wellbeing can get lost if a child is compelled to practise or learn music to satisfy someone else’s expectations. For this reason we do not accept any student at USOM unless they are the ones who want to learn guitar.

Your children and teenagers are hobbyists not professional musicians. Professional musicians and aspiring musicians do practise every day at certain times of their careers. But your child is a hobbyist so do not expect them to do what professional musicians do.

The golden rule of hobbies- is thatthe child does it because THEY (not you) enjoy it and their reasons for enjoying it are not limited to just ‘getting better’.

Yes your child is getting music education but in the context of a hobby. We will give your child some choice and control over their music journey. We will teach them how to find out what they are interested in, and help them explore a breadth and depth of different music influences. In class they will play 95% of the time so they get a lot of quality guitar training done.

Enjoyment comes from the fun of being in a school that feels like a guitar club. Our classes have a positive atmosphere, lots of craic so students feel at ease. In this way they will feel confident to explore their musical creativity and artistic self-expression.

Your child has been given a practise notebook and is asked to decide what they would like do for their own enjoyment or challenge before their next class. Over time some students reach a natural point where they play daily because they enjoy it so much, or it helps them unwind and relax. THIS is one of the best results we could ever help a student achieve.  

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Here are some ideas how to Nurture Your Child’s Love and Interest in music:

  • Young children like a chance to be ‘teacher’ so ask them for a lesson ( short like 5 minutes) to teach you something. By telling, demonstrating, watching and listening to your playing they are reinforcing their own learning. Importantly they are chuffed to know more than you and to get your undivided attention.
  • Consider asking children to perform a song at a family event – this gives them a special status of responsibility. Do acknowledge both their preparation efforts as well as being game to take the extra challenge- it is always much harder to play with people watching.
  • Encourage children who like performing to show off their music skills at school events such as talent shows.
  • Explore and listen to different music together during  car journeys and family trips.
  • Turntables and records are back big time so let them explore your collection!!!!!!
  • Gift them tickets to attend Livestream music events
  • Watch docu-movies about their favourite artists and bands
  • Similar to sports, music apparel and merchandise help your child express their musical self- identity. Great gifts include art work/ posters for their room, pin badges caps + clothing and stationary/ bags from bands or music artists they like.
  • At some point an upgrade in their music instrument may be very well deserved and desired.
  • Encourage the formation of music bands
  • As children get older some may enjoy opportunities to explore song writing and music production

At Ultimate School of Music, we have guitar classes for children from the age of 8 and up: https://ultimateschoolofmusic.ie/childrens-lessons/

11 Great Gift Ideas For Guitarists

Illustration of a set of wrapped up presents

OK folks, here is a gift ideas list for any occasion so you can treat the guitarist in your life. Some of these will make music playing easier, some will give more ways to enjoy music and some will show the world how much you love music! If you need any advice, please ask us.

  1. Merchandise from your favourite bands! Check out band websites for clothing, jewellery, bags, stationary or picks. This is such a great way for kids and teens to express themselves to the world.
  2. Tickets to ‘online’ gigs and ‘online’ performances or ‘online’ master classes
  3. A good quality guitar strap (€ 20+). When used properly, the strap will relieve tension in your shoulder and back muscles making playing easier. Take your instrument in and choose a strap that you like the look and feel of. Get the store to check it works your instrument (some acoustic guitars need straps that button on, some need straps that tie on).
  4. New strings (€ 15+). Some guitarists forget to change their strings! For a small fee the store can put them onto your instrument. This will make a huge improvement to the sound of your playing. Some of you could also change to lighter strings which will be more comfortable.
  5. Clip-on tuner (€ 5+). Yes, we know you can use the free Guitar Tuna on a Smart phone BUT the clip on tuner can stay clipped onto your instrument AND keep you away from your phone. It makes easier for you to tune in class, rehearsals, jams and performances. There are fun shaped and coloured ones for children.
  6. An instrument stand (€15+) so your musical instrument can live outside of its case – making it easier to pick up and play! If you are short on floor space, you can get a wall mounted instrument holder – which will keep things tidy.
  7. A footstool (€6-20). This helps your instrument balance better on you, reducing shoulder and back muscle tension. Your fingers will SPEED up!
  8. New picks (€1-15) You can even get custom designed picks or glow in the dark ones.
  9. A Capo (€5-30) – this lets you play in different keys easily. They are great for social events around singers with different vocal ranges.
  10. For electric guitarists, effects pedals are ALWAYS a big want! There are many different kinds from delays to distortion, from wah-wahs to loop pedals. Prices vary from around €50 upwards.
  11. An instrument upgrade! Do not hesitate to ask or email us with any questions about instrument upgrading. It’s an exciting thing and we can help you know what to consider. This will make it less overwhelming. For children, we recommend you chat to us or email first before upgrading.

Daniel Jacobson Ultimate School of Music www.ultimateschoolofmusic.ie

Tips For Practicing Guitar at USOM

blue notebook with pencil

We want to recap why we use Practise Notebooks at USOM.

Some people might think the main reason is to get you to practise more – WRONG!

The main reason is simply to make it really clear what will be the most beneficial things to practise to move your playing forwards.

For 95% of students, this means adjusting DOWN the amount you think you should be doing! Its more about quality than quantity and practising the right things.

We’ve noticed over the years that many adult students hold the belief somewhere in the recesses of their brains the myth that ‘I must be practising every day to improve’.

This is wrong! You are a hobbyist not a professional musician.

Think of other hobbies you do whether GAA or football or golf. You don’t play them every day but when you go to ‘training’ and do quality focused work you improve from week to week. It’s the same thing with guitar. You will do quality and focussed playing during your classes and you will improve even when you might not get a lot of practise done in between classes.

Hobbyists like yourself have multiple demands on your time and energy like jobs, kids, grand kids, elderly parents. So please remember you are a hobbyist not a professional musician so give yourself permission to adjust how much practise bearing in mind what’s going on in your lives.

Here is our advice on practising

  • Ultimately, picking up your instrument outside of class should be something you look forwards to. To reach this point- don’t make practise sessions too hard!
  • You are not a robot. When life is hectic set yourself LESS practise to aim for. Accept that this is NORMAL and SENSIBLE and take the pressure off yourself.
  • Some weeks you might be feeling stressed in life. Only aim to practise things that you know so its playing for enjoyment and relaxation. When you do sports do you always do full on workouts no matter how you feel? No, you adjust it, same with guitar.
  • You will be surprised how just one simple practise session no matter how short and simple will give you a real sense of satisfaction and enjoyment.

When you practise:

Give it your total concentration and do not get distracted by your phone.

Decide how long you will practise for and what you will get done, then do it.

Do not procrastinate from things you find challenging. Give them a go and alternate it with easier things.

Turn it into a ‘You time’ ritual (versus a chore) and have a cup of tea/beverage with it!

Daniel Jacobson Ultimate School of Music www.ultimateschoolofmusic.ie

What Does “Success” Mean In Relation To Performing Music for a Hobbyist?

‘Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming’ Coach John Wooden

‘Never try to be better than someone else, learn from them but always try to be the best that you can become, because that is what is within your control’  Coach John Wooden

John Wooden was one of the most legendary coaches in the sport of basketball. What is so interesting about him is that many of his basketball teams were highly successful in the traditional sense of ‘winning’ multiple games and tournaments even though he hardly talked to them about winning. Instead his focus with each athlete was on what they needed to do to be as prepared as possible for each game. His thinking was that if a person had prepared their best and tried the hardest of which they were capable, then that was the definition of success because there is no more that you can ask a person to do than that.

We wanted to share his line of thinking with you as we know that sometime students measure their success in a Performance by the number of mistakes they do or don’t make.

In other words, they apply the standards of professional musicians onto their hobbyist shoulders. If you have been thinking this way, we recommend you change this as soon as you can.

What we would like you to gain from taking part in the Performance is so much more than whether you make mistakes or not. We want you to:

  • have an opportunity to challenge yourselves by taking to the stage
  • share what you do with your friends and family
  • have fun playing music with different people
  • learn to develop poise and perform even when you feel nervous
  • grow from the experience no matter what level your playing is at
  • learn from it no matter how your playing goes
  • develop in self confidence
  • focus on your own journey -what matters is where you are now compared to when you began
  • learn how to keep playing even when you make mistakes

On Performance day if you truly:

  • have done the best preparation you could for your pieces
  • tried your hardest on the day

then you have done everything within your control to be the best you could be on the day. You have achieved success and that is something to be proud of.  

We wish you all the best for a successful, enjoyable and fulfilling Performance!


Daniel Jacobson Ultimate School of Music www.ultimateschoolofmusic.ie

3 Common Frustrations for Beginner Guitarists

Not Having Enough Time To Play Guitar

You don’t need hours and hours a day to get REALLY good at the guitar!

It’s much more important to do the right things, in the right order, and to be able to focus properly when you are playing. If you do this you will make the most effective use of your practice time and you will consistently improve your playing each week.

Even with 3-4 hours a week of playing time, many players have become great players over the space of a few years. It’s really important that you find a great teacher who can show you the best, most innovative practice methods and techniques available.

Not Being “Good Enough” To Play Guitar

Everyone encounters self-doubt from time to time. Everyone questions their own abilities sometimes. Those who become really good at playing the guitar learn how to ignore that voice that says “I’m not good enough!” and “I can’t do it!”. It may be a cliche at this stage, but Henry Ford’s saying “If you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right” is absolutely true in my experience.

You can play the guitar AS WELL AS YOU CHOOSE TO. If you choose to become a virtuoso guitarist, that choice may involve a change in lifestyle to allow you to practice for a few hours a day. But if you choose to become an excellent guitarist, you can do it with one hour a day practice or even less if you know the practice methods and techniques I mentioned above.

Having Physical Difficulties Such As Big Hands or Small Hands

If you can write, drive a car, cook a meal, go for a walk, play a video game – or any other normal everyday activity. Having big or small hands can’t and won’t stop you if you REALLY desire to learn to play the guitar. There are people with NO HANDS who play the guitar well using their feet, for goodness sake! Such as this guy for example:



Another inspiring example of a guitarist playing with huge physical limitations was actually one of the most influential jazz guitarists of all time: Django Reinhardt. He was badly burned in a fire at age 17 and lost the use of the 4th and 5th fingers of his fretting hand. Did he give up? No! He relearned how to play with 2 fingers and went on to do things like this:



These guys can achieve such incredible heights with no arms, or fingers missing, and you are thinking your hands are a wee bit small to play the guitar??!!!

Listen – YOU CAN DO THIS. It’s not that hard.

Click here to read more about our lessons for beginners.

Click here to read more about our lessons for intermediate electric guitarists.

Click here to read more about our lessons for intermediate acoustic guitarists.

Tortoise and the Hare

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Are you a Tortoise or a Hare when it comes to guitar playing?

You know the story right? Two old friends, Tortoise and Hare, met up every now and then. Hare liked to make fun of Tortoise’s slow gait.

“You are one slow piece of work dude. I could run a marathon by the time you get from here to that tree!” Hare told Tortoise.

“Oh yeah?” Tortoise replied, unable to think of any snappy comebacks just at that moment.

“That’s right” said Hare. “If you don’t believe me let’s have a one mile race.”

So the race was on. They got a couple of friends to stand at the starting line and the finish line, Mole and Badger. Mole counted them off: “Ready, Steady, Go!” Hare raced off, leaving Tortoise in the dust. When he got about halfway around the racecourse, Hare thought “I’m so far ahead, this is easy. Think I’ll take a quick nap right here under this tree, I’ll still easily beat this slow Tortoise.”

Hare fell fast asleep. Tortoise slowly and steadily keeps moving. First he reached the place where Hare lay snoring under the tree. Then he quietly moved past towards the finish line. Hare woke up to see Tortoise crossing the finish line way in the distance. “Tortoise WINS!” shouted Badger!

When it comes to playing guitar, if you’re a Hare, you might make really fast progress one week, only to stop for 3 or 4 weeks. Then you will find it REALLY hard to get back into it! All your momentum will be gone. If you’re a Tortoise, practicing a bit here, a bit there, slowly but steadily improving – you will become GREAT one day! All those little steps add up. I definitely would rather be a Tortoise!

 

How To Play The “Jazz” Scale

I received this question by email recently:

“…sorry to bother you but when i sat down on my laptop i tried using the jazz scale on the sheet (i’m pretty sure it was the D one) and i didn’t get a jazzy sound at all.. you see, it’s been so long since i started to want to learn how to improvise jazz and i could never find how online and i was wondering if maybe i’m doing something wrong? or maybe i’m misunderstanding the scale or something…but anyway, I was wondering what you use to improvise jazz, for example if someone told you to play jazz on the spot on the piano what would you do?”

It’s a great question, I used to wonder the exact same thing years ago.

The “jazz” scale the author refers to is D Dorian. This scale has the notes D E F G A B C – in other words, it contains all the white notes on the piano, but starts from the note D.

This scale is characterised as having a “jazzy, minor” sound. But if you try to play it, it may not sound like jazz at all.

Let’s answer two important questions:

1. What does it mean to sound “jazzy”?

2. Is there a scale which sounds like “jazz”?

To answer the first question:

The sound of “jazz” can be broken down into the following elements:

1. The rhythm. This is typically swinging 1/8 note lines in classic jazz, or complex odd-metre rhythms in modern jazz.

2. The harmony. Jazz mostly contains harmonically rich chords such as Dm9, G13b9, and Cmaj7#11 to name a few. If you hear chords like this, then it will straight away sound like jazz.

3. The melodies. Jazz uses a combination of chord tones, scale tones and non-scale tones to achieve its “jazziness” for lack of a better word.

Note:
Chord tones = notes in the chord
Scale tones = notes in the scale (these can be chord tones or colour tones, which are notes in the scale which aren’t in the chord, such as 6, 9, 11 and 13)
Non-scale tones = notes not in the scale (and therefore not in the chord either)

Let’s forget about the rhythm and the harmony for a moment. If someone were to play single note lines on the piano, with a straight rhythm, how could it sound like jazz? It would be due to the note choice alone.

Here’s an example of a melodic line I created, in an attempt to make a melody sound like “jazz” without using any harmonic or rhythmic elements. This would sound a LOT more like jazz if I added those elements as well, but the exercise was just to see if it would sound like “jazz” with nothing but a stream of even midi notes, without even any dynamics. Does it sound like jazz to you? Or at the very least, does it sound “jazzy”?

 

example-of-a-jazz-line

 


 

OK, so it does sound “jazzy” to you, then why is this? Because of the use of idiomatic arpeggios, chord tones and passing tones. I had a chord sequence in mind:
||Dm7 |Bb7 A7b9 | Dm7 | Em7b5 A7 | Dm ||

This chord sequence, or a variation of it, is fairly common in jazz. The melodic line I created spells out these chords using a combination of chord tones, colour tones (such as 2nds, 4ths and 6ths, also known as 9ths, 11ths and 13ths) and chromatic passing tones, which are “in-between” notes. For example, if a melody goes from the note C to the note D, you could put the chromatic passing note C# in between and this would link them up and sound a tiny bit jazzy! I think this is the main source of the “jazzy” sound.

To get back to question 2: Is there a scale which sounds like jazz? The quick answer is no. The jazz sound comes from using scales in combination with arpeggios and non-scale tones.

However, there are a set of scales called Bebop Scales, which introduce passing notes into the usual 7-note diatonic scale.

For example, the G Bebop Dominant Scale goes like this:

G A B C D E F F#

The last note, F#, is a passing note between F and G. Without the F#, the scale would be the G Mixolydian Scale. Try playing it with and without the F#, it should definitely sound jazzier with the F# in it!

Here’s another one to try: D Bebop Dorian Scale:

D E F F# G A B C

This one also has an F# added (otherwise it would be just a D Dorian scale). It should sound more jazz-like with the F# added.

Years ago when I first started playing, me and my friend Rory who also played guitar used to mess around and try to play jazz even though we knew nothing. Our first attempts consisted of both improvising on whole-tone scales such as C D E F# G# A# and making up random chords using that scale. Of course, it sounded horrible! Nothing like jazz. It took years and years to learn HOW to make the music sound the way we heard it on the records. It’s a language of its own with nuances and vocabulary. Of course, the length of time it takes to learn depends on how far you want to travel into Jazzland. If you only want to visit a couple of towns, you only need enough vocabulary to order some food and buy a train ticket. You could be there in a couple of months! If you want to go and live and work there permanently then you have to keep studying until you are fluent.

 

How To Overcome Overwhelm

Learn Guitar Quickly Without Frustration and Discouragement

Have you ever felt frustrated while trying to learn guitar?

Have you ever felt frustrated at yourself for continually making the same mistakes?

Have you ever felt overwhelmed with so much to do that you could not find time to practice?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then read on. This article will provide you the strategies to overcome frustration and overwhelm. Overwhelm is one the number one reason students quit taking music lessons and give up on their musical goals. When a student feels that they sound bad, do not know what to practice, how to practice, or do not have enough time to practice consistently, they often experience overwhelm.

Overwhelm leads to self-doubt, which is the number one enemy of progress. As long as you doubt yourself, you will continue to feel stressed, frustrated, and stuck. There is good news. You can overcome overwhelm. And when you do overcome overwhelm, you feel confident, excited, and you make massive improvements, which leads to further confidence, excitement, clarity, and accomplishment.

Imagine if you felt confident, excited, clear, and accomplished every single day. How much you would accomplish and how happy you would be? Imagine if you improved massively every time you invested even one minute to practice your guitar. Most people don’t practice or at least don’t like to practice because they don’t see the fruit of their labor. And they have not formed a consistent practice habit. Then they make excuses or say that it was a busy week or they didn’t have time. When you learn to overcome overwhelm, you will never need to make excuses again.

The key to overcome overwhelm begins and ends in the mind. You can become the musician and the person you want to be. There are two keys to overcome overwhelm: simplify and visualize.

Whenever you are stressed or overwhelmed, simplify. If you have a busy day and don’t think you have time to practice, then break your practicing down into bite size pieces that you can do in 1, 5, 10, or 30 minute chunks. Focus on just one very specific thing you can improve, even just a little. If you are working on a difficult song, break it down into smaller and smaller parts. You get overwhelmed because you are trying to think about too many things at once. Keep it simple and reward yourself with small victories. Then you will build momentum, build confidence, learn more quickly, have more fun, and feel much better about yourself.

The second effective strategy to overcome and prevent overwhelm is to visualize vividly, what and who you want to become. Visualize what you want to sound like. Without a vision, you will lack the motivation to even try. Frankly, learning music is way too difficult if you don’t want to learn and if you don’t have a vision of what you want. If you like music and if you want to learn, you already have a huge advantage. Your desire to become a better musician and a better person can propel you to do whatever it takes to make your musical dreams a reality.

Exercise 1: If anything were possible, what do you want to be able to do on guitar? Don’t limit yourself. And don’t try to be realistic yet. Simply write down in as vivid detail, what you want to be able to do. It is ok if all you want to do right now is play some cool songs and feel good about the way you play. That is a great start.

Exercise 2: After you have completed exercise one, focus more specifically on one specific song or technique you want to learn. Write it down.

After completing exercise 1 & 2, you will have a better idea of what you want to accomplish. You can do these exercises regularly and repeat exercise 2 every time you want to learn a new song or set of songs. The clarity you gain from these exercises will give you a boost of clarity and motivation, which will protect you from overwhelm.

To overcome overwhelm, remember to simplify and visualize.

If you want to learn to play guitar the right way while having fun along the way, start by hiring a qualified guitar teacher who can empower you to learn more effectively than you could on your own. Today you can get one step closer to becoming the confident musician you want to be.