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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Pro Musicians’ Tips #2 of 4: Cords, Earplugs & Gloves!

You can't beat getting tips from the pro's. Right? Click HERE to read the tips about Cords, Earplugs and Gloves!

Pro Musicians’ Tips #1 of 4: About Instruments & Equipment

As a supplement to the large bodies of valuable information available, these lists of “Pro Musicians’ Tips” has been compiled from years of personal experience, observing others and by personal survey of about a dozen working professionals spanning all echelons of the business from local clubs to major-venue players and stage hands. In my out-of-print book, How To Make A Living as a Musician, these were listed as appendix material, called “Miscellaneous Tips & Advices.” These tips represent dues well paid over many, many years. There are a few tips on this list, with hundreds of other tips around to be discovered. Use them to enhance your prosperity as a musician! Click HERE to read and use Pro Musicians’ Tips #1 of 4: About Instruments & Equipment

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Basic Music Theory Crossword Puzzle -

Basic Music Theory Crossword Puzzle - Can you figure out this crossword puzzle? If you can, your basic music theory is at a good place! If you can’t figure everything out, shoot me an email and I’ll send you the answers. Have fun!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Tips on Learning Songs By Ear (Almost Non-technical)



Learning songs by ear means that you recognize where the sounds you are hearing are, on your instrument—sort of. I have a few friends that learn material in this fashion. They hear the music they want to play, whether by singing the melody and letting their hands find the notes, or listening to a recording and letting their hands find the notes. Sometimes this process is instant and sometimes there is some hunting-and-pecking: you play around until you find it.

Another method of playing by ear, is understanding how the notes you are hearing relate to each other, thereby understanding the particular “alphabet” of that song or piece of music. I use the word “alphabet” because just as you are reading the words in this article and the words are based on the alphabet letters A – Z, most pieces of music are based on a specific alphabet of notes and when you know that alphabet, you can hear the music and know what the notes are. Musical alphabets are called “scales.” This area gets a bit technical, but you can read more about it at this site by searching for the articles about “The Language of Music” which explains more about this.

Anyways, without getting into all of the specifics, which often require some efficient music instruction to understand, here is a routine you can follow to learn songs by ear. You can find the definitions of the musical terms at my Glossary of Musical Terms at


To learn the chords:

1. Listen and find the bass notes. These could be played by the electric bass, keyboard, cellos or whatever low-pitched instrument is playing. The bass notes are most often the root of the chord. Once you find the bass notes, try and determine whether the chord is major or minor. By doing this, you can determine the chord progression. You should be able to actually sing or hum the notes in whatever range you can (high or low). If you can’t sing the notes, just play a bunch of low notes until you find it. Then play the bass notes along with the recording and see if they seem right. If they do, that could be it. (I am fairly good at this, and sometimes it is difficult. I just wanted you to know that...)

2. If the chords are difficult to hear due to a lot of sound being present, such as effects, drums, etc., or poor recording, try to pick out ONE other note in addition to the bass note. Now you have two notes. Then try and pick out ONE MORE note. Now you have three notes and are on the way to discovering what the chord is. Sometimes you have to loop a section of the song and listen to it many times to hear exactly what it is—this is normal. Do this chord by chord until you have figured out out all of the chords and the whole song.

3. If you have some music education, once you start learning the chords you can recognize the alphabet that the song is created with, and that theory knowledge can assist in guiding you through the process of figuring things out.

That is the basic process of learning the chords for a song. If you can’t carry a tune, this can be quite difficult if not impossible. If you can carry a tune fairly well you should most likely get through the process.


To learn the melody or solo section:

1. Go note by note and figure out what the notes are. Start by finding ONE note, then another then another. The better your ears are, the faster the recognition of the song’s alphabet will be and the easier it will be to do this. There really aren’t any shortcuts to this step. Knowing guitar fingerings help. Knowing some scales helps even more on whichever instrument you play. Training your ear to recognize musical alphabets, scales, is the ultimate tool. That is what ear training and music theory are all about: you learn to understand what you are listening to. (Which is not overly difficult with the proper instruction.)

OK! Those are the bare-bones methods of learning songs by ear. Getting computer programs and smart-phone apps that slow the music down without changing the pitch helps a lot. Training helps a lot, as well as just DOING IT A LOT!

Also, the better your speakers are the easier it will be. Since it is the bass notes that primarily outline what’s going on, you need to be able to hear the bass! Little speakers and ear buds often DO NOT reproduce bass sounds well and you should be aware of this. When I transcribe music, I often need to hear the music on my studio speakers or head phones. Small speakers can work as well, as long as you can hear the bass.

Now go learn some songs by ear! (And email me to let me know how you did!)


Marty B.
Studio: (818) 242-7551
Mobile: (818) 517-3164
Personalized Music Lessons
Buttwinick Musical Services
http://Personalized Music Lessons Facebook Page

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Arrangement is Not the Song (Different Ways to Play Songs)

A common problem when learning a new song is whether to learn an exact rendition of a recording or to play your own version. And if there are many versions of the song available, which one should you learn?

An experienced player has a better chance of copying it exactly how it is recorded and choosing which version to play, whereas a beginner should play a song in the easiest playing-style possible.

Here are some guidelines to clarify this area:

Any song you hear or see on a sheet of music is made up of five elements: melody, chords, lyrics, form and arrangement. The arrangement consists of the instrumentation and all of the specific musical parts including any audio effects like ocean waves or children laughing. (And without getting too technical: song form, the order of verses plus the other sections, are often considered part of the arrangement. Which instruments play what music is called orchestration. And putting it all together with any sound effects and final touches is called the production.)

My point in all of this, is that the arrangement is not the song—it’s the arrangement of the song. It’s how the artist performed it or the producer envisioned it.

Learning a specific arrangement is great—I do it all of the time. Learning a guitar solo, piano piece or finger picking pattern is a good way to learn your instrument, as well as different styles of music. Plus, it directly accomplishes a musical goal so it’s fun and rewarding! Right? People have often asked me how come I know so many different styles of music. Well, I’ve transcribed a lot of music! When you copy the music note-for-note you gain stylistic knowledge and a new bag of tricks. And if the music is new or challenging, you gain musical knowledge and increased technical skill as well. Nice!

However, you don’t need to learn an exact arrangement in order to play a song well. You can, but you don’t have to. And at a beginning level it is sometimes impossible, therefore extremely frustrating when attempted.

For example, one of my intermediate students is learning “Angeles” by Elliot Smith. He printed out the TAB and started learning the piece going bar by bar. However, Elliot’s playing was a little advanced so this process was frustrating and would have taken about two or three months to learn. My student was not having fun, so I wrote an arrangement that was close to the recording but much easier to play. In a few weeks he had learned most of of the song, then fine tuned it on his own as we went on to other things. These other things are the musical skills that will enable him to quickly learn more complex arrangements on his own with minimal to no difficulty.

My beginning students often want to learn songs that are too hard, so I create an arrangement for them that they can play NOW, then we get into further specifics as we proceed throughout the upcoming lessons. My more advanced students learn material note-for-note, whether piano piece, bass part or guitar riff.

So if you want to have some satisfaction playing music right now—find something that you can play in a short period of time, and work on the more difficult pieces as time goes on while studying the fundamentals that enable you to play any song well.

It’s a winning procedure.

Marty B.
Studio: (818) 242-7551
Mobile: (818) 517-3164
Personalized Music Lessons
Buttwinick Musical Services
http://Personalized Music Lessons Facebook Page

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Holiday Music Lessons Discounts!

I normally don't promote at this blog, but I have some very cool Holiday Discount packages I want you to know about. 

Check them out!



It's time for my Holiday Music Lessons !

Alright..., so it's getting towards the end of the year. For some people life just continues as usual. (Which is cool.) For others, however..., it's time to get caught up on those music lessons! Right? Maybe you've been wanting to get some musical enhancement all year but haven't?

So get yourself or a loved one some musical enhancement for the next few months. Only watch out--lessons with me can be addicting :-) (I also provide a wide array of musical services that you can contact me about.)

Browse through my teacher pages to see what I do, then get some lessons for yourself or as a gift!

Here are the specials:

  • Normal rate: $65 / lesson (an hour)
  • Gift Rate #1: $55 / lesson -- Buy two lessons (minimum) at $110
  • Gift Rate #2: Same price with a four-lesson package at $220 (Normally $260)
  • Gift Rate #3: A five-lesson package for $275 and you get one free! (This is a great deal.) This applies to anyone paying by May 13th and starting before the end of May. (Gift Packages apply to new or returning students only.
All lessons need to be weekly, at least one a week. (More is always fine.) Until a student is stable with the learning process, it's easy to get off track when a week is missed. Once someone is grooved in, occasional misses aren't an issue. (If/when the student continues after these lessons are taken, lessons would be at my regular price).

Here are some starting links to see how things work: Introduction Teaching Method Student Comments Clearing up Confusions About Music

Take advantage of this offer! Click on the Gift Certificate above to download, print and give to someone.)

Marty B. (818) 517-3164 Email (And remember that I deliver lessons by phone and Skype to your out-of-town mothers, mothers-in-law, and other people's mothers if you really like them :-))