A Banjo
Banjo Lessons and Instructors
Banjos, while not as popular as the guitar, have a great deal of character and can be a tool for creating awesome music. Like any other instrument, the banjo can be learned, but it takes time and resources, whether you learn banjo with a teacher or not. If you’re serious about learning, then take some of the advice below.

When assessing your goals in your search for an instructor, it is important to understand the difference between the two types of the instrument – the four string and the five string banjo. The four string is used in traditional barbershop and folk styles and played with the right hand often holding a pick and strumming chords, similar in technique to the ukulele.

The five string banjo is the type used for bluegrass where the strings are picked with the right hand rapidly one at a time in a pattern. This is the style of Appalachian bluegrass music made famous in the movie “Deliverance.” Famous bluegrass five string pickers include Earl Scruggs and Ralph Stanley, and more recently Bela Fleck. If you are interested in learning bluegrass, you will need to find a teacher for the 5-string. If you like the old time sound of strumming, it will require the 4-string, so you should make that determination before you purchase an instrument.

For this instrument, banjo lessons at a school can be a viable option, and is certainly one of the most popular. Going to a location where resources and teachers for learning the banjo are available is a great option for many, because it means a commitment and often positive reinforcement provided by fellow students. The price to learn banjo with a teacher and a class is often reasonable, and these lessons can help you make realistic and steady progress.

But if group settings or inflexible class times are something you’d rather avoid, then perhaps you should look into another option like a private tutor. The cost to learn banjo with a teacher may be big, but will give you personalized feedback and instruction tailor-made for you. They can also work out flexible classes and design their schedule around your preferences.

Sometimes, though, you just can’t afford to learn banjo with a teacher, and that’s when a cheaper option is required. In a situation like that, one of the best options is to purchase a course, whether it is of books, video, or audio. A commercially available course that you can do at home means you need to have more discipline to put yourself through the course than if you were to learn banjo with a teacher, but means even more flexibility than a private tutor.

And don’t forget to make use of free online resources to learn banjo with a teacher. You can find great videos on YouTube and other popular video sites, where experts and amateurs alike post their tips and techniques completely for free. It’s a great way to learn banjo with a teacher, although a virtual one, for no cost at all. You can also go to blogs and banjo site forums for free advice and learning methods. Free resources are great whether you have a course or not, because they supplement your learning and give you real advice from real banjo players.

Photo Credit: T.J. Lentz

Duel Pianos
Getting Dueling Piano Lessons
The piano is a wonderful and time-honored instrument that millions have found enjoyment in. Dueling pianos is a type of piano show in which two or more people play pianos on stage. They take turns playing songs and singing, and there are sometimes comedy bits and other routines thrown in as well. Audience requests are usually taken and performed. Shows like this are pretty challenging, so it can be helpful to take some dueling piano lessons before you will be able to really shine.

Taking lessons as a normal pianist is the first step. You can find a local piano tutor in your area through the classifieds section of newspapers, local ad agencies, and classifieds web sites. Getting a teacher recommended to you by someone you trust for dueling piano lessons is preferable, but this won't always be possible.

You will probably have trouble finding a piano teacher who knows dueling pianos, but there are some online resources available to help you out. There are a few teachers who specialize in that listed here, or you can search and type in "dueling pianos" here: www.lrngo.com/music-arts. If you're looking for standard piano lessons to get started, you might try PianoLessons.com. However, be aware that traditional piano lessons often don't have much to do with the fast and furious pace of the dueling concept. There are also sites that contain large databases of traditional piano tutors from all around the United States. You will be able to see what they look like, read some information about the teacher, and contact them if necessary before you make your choice.

Once you know how to play the piano, you will need to learn how to duel. You should know that dueling piano lessons will be more complicated and very different than ordinary lessons. For one thing, you will need to learn how to sing and play simultaneously. In dueling piano shows, the players come with pieces prepared but many of the songs come from audience suggestions and requests. The audience members will sometimes include cash in their requests, meaning that you should definitely know how to play as many requests as possible. Suggestions that don't include a tip don't often get played: thus the difference between a "request" and a "suggestion".

Since people will be requesting songs for you to play, you will need to learn how to be spontaneous and play anything you need to. You won't be able to rehearse all of your pieces beforehand and then play them one by one. If you don't have a large song repertoire, you won't last long as a dueling pianist. Dueling piano lessons will teach you how to keep a crowd engaged and lively throughout your show. You will need to be entertaining, good humored, and funny.

Most of the songs you will need to learn will be rock and roll, country, R&B, and classic rock. Your dueling piano lessons should include songs like 'Great Balls of Fire', 'Piano Man', 'Brown Eyed Girl', and 'Sweet Caroline.' The more songs you know, the better.

It will be a good idea to know your audience and do some preparation beforehand. For example, if you know that there will be college students at the show, you will need to learn some university anthems. Students will often compete to get their anthems played by giving bigger and bigger tips, so keep that in mind.

Sure you might be able to learn by yourself, but getting dueling piano lessons will help you in many ways. An experienced teacher can save you a lot of time and frustration by pointing out the biggest things you are doing wrong, and giving you tips on how to engage the audience. Remember that learning an instrument takes a lot of time and dedication, but there is nothing stopping you.

Photo Credit: Gordon Tarpley

Learning to Play Guitar
Fingerstyle Guitar Instruction
Fingerstyle is a method of playing stringed instruments. In fingerstyle, the fingers and/or fingernails are used to pluck and strum the strings of the instrument instead of using a bow or pick. Fingerstyle guitar has often been associated with the country and bluegrass genres, but the technique can be found in just about every type of music. Today is a great time to learn to play, because the internet makes finding quality fingerstyle guitar instruction a simple task. Having a computer is almost as good as having a real live teacher.

Fingerstyle guitar playing is often associated with acoustic guitars, but anything that can be played on an acoustic guitar can also be played on an electric guitar. Certain pieces may be designed for one or the other, however. You can find some great fingerstyle guitar instruction at AcousticFingerstyle.com . This site has plenty of fingerstyle resources such as books, videos, and computer software. There are also plenty of articles that give helpful tips and advice, software and guitar reviews, and occasionally guitar song tablature.

There are individual pages for some particularly notable fingerstyle guitar players such as Laurance Juber, Muriel Anderson, and Mike Dowling. These pages have some information about the musician, some notes about their musical style, and videos of the players giving fingerstyle guitar instruction. These videos are wonderful because the musicians are experts and they take the time to carefully explain how to play guitar and what to practice.

Learn-Fingerstyle-Guitar.com is a site dedicated to teaching you how to play the guitar with your fingers. The fingerstyle guitar instruction starts easy, such as how to hold the guitar and where to place your hands, and gets progressively more complicated. After learning how to tune the guitar and read guitar tablature, you will learn some finger picking exercises for your left hand, then your right hand. Then you will combine the hands and begin to play scales and simple melodies. You will learn to pick various chord shapes and move those chords around the fretboard. Finally, you will learn to play classic fingerstyle songs such as 'Buffalo Gals' and 'You are my Sunshine.'

There are also a series of more advanced fingerstyle guitar instruction. These lessons include how to create your own guitar tablature for recording songs, some complicated exercises to practice, and articles about specific aspects of guitar playing. These can go a long way to adding some emotion and spice to your playing. Learn how to create artificial harmonics, design a good walking bass line, and find out how and why guitar chords are constructed the way they are.

If you are still in need of more fingerstyle guitar instruction, you may want to consider buying some professional guitar instruction DVDs. You can find plenty of these at GuitarGalleryMusic.com . Many of these instructional videos are by some of the greatest players like Tommy Emmanuel and Chet Atkins. If you still can't find what you're looking for, try doing a Google or Yahoo! search with keywords of whatever you need help with. Youtube is also a great place to look, because many accomplished musicians will post invaluable information and demonstration tutorials there that you can watch and listen to completely for free.

Photo Credit: Larry Jacobsen

Couple Swing Dancing on Broadway
Learn Swing Dancing for Fun Fitness
This form of dance has been popular for social dancer of all ages for many years. Swing dancing is a couple’s dance where the girl is lifted, spun, swung and twirled. It is lively and great fun. You can learn swing dancing to be able to participate in these social dancing events, or for the aerobic fitness of it.

If you are decided to learn swing dancing, you will probably be able to find several dance schools in your area where you can take lessons. Many people find that through taking these classes, they not only up their fitness level, but also make new friends who share a common interest.

You can also learn swing dancing on your own, at home with instructional DVDs; however, you will at least need a dance partner. It is a social dance, after all. This dance is meant to be engaging and interactive. Partners hold hands, as opposed to placing hands on each other’s shoulders and hips.

You can learn swing dancing as a couple. It’s a great hobby to pursue together, leading to fitness, fun and more friends with the same interest. Even though it is not a particularly intimate dance, couples who learn swing dancing together have discovered that is a great way for them to build communication skills while pursuing a very enjoyable activity.

Once you learn swing dancing, you will find social events where you can dance to your heart’s content with others who love this dance style. You may even get ambitious and decide to enter some of the swing dancing competitions that take place each year. In any case, of one thing you can be sure, you will be having fun. And this kind of active fun will certainly keep you fit.

Photo Credit:Port of San Diego

Lanois Lap Steel Guitar Harley Benton Slider II
Something Different: Lap Steel Guitars
Almost everyone is familiar with the guitar, but lap steel guitars are something of an oddity, a rare sight at most concerts and music halls. However, they are becoming more popular and can be found in movies, commercials, and an expanding number of musical genres. These lap steel guitars are placed on one's lap or a stool and are played while sitting down. They produce a slightly twangier, smoother sound than regular guitars, and are sometimes used in Hawaiian and Bluegrass musical styles. There are several differences between lap steel guitars and ordinary or Spanish-style guitars, but they retain the flexibility and complexity of ordinary guitars.

There are three main types of lap steel guitars – lap slide guitars, resonator guitars, and electric lap steel guitars. Lap slide guitars are built and produce sound like an ordinary guitar, using a wooden soundboard. These guitars have also been known as Hawaiian guitars and generally have square necks. Resonator guitars use a special metal resonator to create the sound, and electric lap steel guitars use electrical pickups like an ordinary electric guitar. Another type of electric lap guitar is supported by legs and is called a console steel guitar. Electric lap steel guitars were some of the very first electric guitars.

The strings on any lap guitar are raised about half an inch away from the fret board, and the strings are not pushed down to the frets like ordinary guitars. Instead, a metal or glass slide is used in the left hand to make contact with the strings, and this gives the guitar a smooth, gliding sound. This mean that there are fewer chords possible with lap guitars than ordinary guitars, and players must limit their playing to what is possible for them. If frets are present, they are usually only used as markers. The strings are plucked or strummed with the right hand, usually with a pick attached to the fingers although many prominent players do not use a pick.

Lap steel guitars are not usually tuned to the standard guitar tuning of E-A-D-G-B-E. Instead, they are tuned to open chords of various types, depending on the musical style. Blues and rock styles use many open G, open A, open D, or open E tunings. Bluegrass players often use a High G tuning, and Western Swing players use a C6 tuning. The different, stronger build of these guitars allows them to be tuned in ways that would break an ordinary guitar. This has allowed players to get very creative and interesting in their tuning styles.

Today, lap steel guitars are being seen more and more often. Many famous players have used them and continue to do so today, including Ben Harper, John Lennon, and Robert Randolph. Students of the lap steel guitar can look to these artists for inspiration. As is the case with many musical instruments, there is a wealth of information about these guitars on the internet. There are many sites dedicated to free instruction and lessons, and dedication and practice are all that are required to turn a fresh musician into a performing pro.

Photo Credit: Tim Walker

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