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Sheldon COnrich Piano Teacher

Teaching piano to students with ADHD

Teaching piano to students with ADHD

Sheldon COnrich Piano Teacher

Over recent years I have taught a number of students with ADHD on both guitar and piano. The condition has a relatively new label in the medical world. So I’m sure I’ve taught many more students with ADHD but it is only in recent years that parents and schools have brought my attention to it.

In this blog I would like to feature a student I’ve been teaching for around a year. He suffers with diagnosed ADHD and learns the keyboard. I will discuss common observations I have noticed over this period and some of the solutions I have found to helping him learn better.

Teaching Student E the keyboard

Teaching keyboard to students with ADHD

Over the past year student E has been learning the keyboard with me. I was initially approached by a local school to take on the student as a way of helping him focus. The idea was that playing an instrument would introduce a weekly routine and a pattern to aid his ADHD. They originally asked me to teach him guitar but for a particular reason unrelated to his ADHD this was not possible, so we decided to move to the keyboard.

The keyboard is very different to the piano and especially to children with ADHD. There are many buttons on a keyboard which can be very distracting. Each button can change the sound of an instrument being played. And if the child finds a particular sound they like it can distract them from the learning. So be aware that this may be an issue from very early on if the child learns keyboard. A simple solution is to cover up these various buttons with a piece of paper and over time the student will understand not to touch the buttons.

Learning an instrument requires a few key components for any student to flourish. The first is that there needs to be an inner desire to want to learn the instrument and a general interest in listening to music. I would say without these two in place you really can’t teach a student an instrument. If the student does have these two components, the next one is a good attention span. Often learning an instrument requires understanding concepts or ideas and it will take a lot of focus for these to sink in. The last component to learning an instrument is a strong will to practise and repeat something which may sound awful at first.

With student E we could tick the first two boxes quite easily. I would go further to say that he actually had an interest in writing songs or at least coming up with simple melodies of his own. However his attention span and willingness to practise regularly has proved a real stumbling block.

In Lessons Observations


I noticed that student E had a lot of difficulty with basic reading and writing skills. I’m not an expert so I can’t say for certain this is common with all students with ADHD but it was very noticeable with student E. This meant that reading music posed a problem. Part of reading notes requires a kind of photographic or picture memory which student E is fine with. However connecting letters to these pictures has proved very tricky. As an alternative I have devised a more organic approach to his learning process. I’ve managed to teach him the names of the white and black notes on the keys because he has a strong visual recall. He actually really likes to draw  and so I decided we would write letters rather than notes as a way to reference melodies. From here we have been able to write and develop simple melodies using both the white and black keys. We’ve covered both single octave ideas and double octave melodies. I feel the note reading may have to be introduced at a later stage once he understands pitch, note distances and note names better.

Something else I’ve noticed in lessons is that if we focus on something too long – a melody or song – his attention will wane. He will ask about playing a different game or even suggest new games to play. This is fine for non instrument based learning but as mentioned the key to learning an instrument is repetition. So this is where the ADHD proves to be the biggest hurdle. While he can only focus for short periods of time on one idea (melody, hand technique, scale, song etc) we will find progress slow.

Lesson Length for students with ADHD

Teaching a student who has difficulty focusing and holding their attention means that the lesson length is important. From my experience in general kids tend to have shorter attention spans anyway so my usual hour lessons are reduced to 30 minutes. I would say that with student E this 30 minute lesson length was basically the threshold point. Anything longer than that and I would’ve lost him, so I made sure we packed as much varying exercises as possible in a 30 minute time frame.

Solutions for teaching keyboard to Student E

Icons of musical notation

I will go as far as to say that ADHD is certainly something that makes learning an instrument more difficult. However it is not impossible. With the development of great music apps to aid learning, these seem to have been a real revelation in helping student E improve. These apps are able to use interactive and fun animated games that deal with separate music ideas. Anything from melody, rhythm, technique, reading notes and more can be found in the app store.

As mentioned before a large problem is the constant need to switch focus regularly. So it’s important to decide on three games per lesson which you know will be cycled throughout the lesson length. Even if you get five minutes of one and move to the next app, you can then come back to the previous one later and it will feel fresh to the student. If you are really clever you can find three apps which essentially teach the same thing but in a slightly different way. By swapping between these apps you’ll end up teaching the student without them realising it’s the same concept. If the student isn’t interested in what you’re trying to teach them then move on. Don’t be fixed on one lesson idea or piece of music. If it’s not working then move on.

Some good app recommendations are My note games, Rhythm Cat and Note Teach Free. Just to say I tried Yousician but for a student with ADHD there is a lot going on and it’s very busy. It can be very intimidating for them and as much as the app has a lot to offer I wouldn’t recommend it to students with ADHD.

For teachers it’s really important you maintain patience throughout the lesson. Never get angry with your student – in general – but especially with a student with ADHD. The more relaxed they are the easier they are to teach and the longer their attention span lasts. You will need to constantly find ways to keep their attention on the task in front of them. Just keep persisting and if they aren’t interested in the thing you’ve asked them to do, move on. They will get quite agitated if you persist on something they don’t like and they’re attention will be everywhere except on the music.


  • Keep lesson lengths short (max 30 minutes)
  • Keep the content varied (multiple exercises)
  • Keep lessons fun (fill them with games)
  • Keep the student relaxed (Reassure and praise the student when they do the smallest thing correct)
  • Focus on note letters and writing at first rather than reading sheet music
  • Give the student plenty of time and patience
  • Be reactive and don’t be too rigid about lesson content

If you or your child has ADHD and you’re looking for piano or keyboard lessons, it is very possible to learn the instrument. If you have any questions or would like to learn piano/keyboard or guitar with me feel free to get in touch. I hope this blog has been helpful for students with ADHD and teachers trying to improve their lessons with ADHD students.


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Teaching Guitar to Students with Disabilities – Multiple Sclerosis

Teaching Guitar to Students with Disabilities – Multiple Sclerosis

Sign of the times EP - instrumental music

Over the years I have been teaching guitar to students with a wide range of skills and disabilities. Often I have found the students with disabilities to be the most challenging but also the most rewarding. Every student I teach presents me with a new challenge. These students help me to become a better teacher because with every challenge in front of me I’m forced to find a solution.

After speaking to a good friend of mine on the weekend about the various types of students I’ve taught over the years, she thought it would be helpful to others if I shared my experience and findings. I had never thought about this before because all these solutions I developed were really to help me and my own students. And in some way that is a little selfish, especially if I can help other teachers trying to teach students with disabilities.

So I’ve decided to write a short series of blogs covering some of the students I’ve encountered over the years. From students with M.S. those in wheelchairs, children with growth issues affecting their size and strength, ADD, arthritis and past finger trauma, and others. My hope is that the things I have learnt from these students can help other teachers and students improve faster and better.

Teaching guitar to student L – M.S. student

Guitar Teacher - Sheldon Conrich

Over the past ten years I have taught student L guitar – not their real name but you get the picture. Student L has suffered with multiple sclerosis since their early twenties. They came to me with a keen interest in the guitar and probably the notion that learning the guitar will aid their M.S. For me it was the first time I’d taught someone with a disability and student L proved to be a big challenge. My limited knowledge of M.S. at the time came from friends whose parents had the condition and general conversation. So interacting with student L on a weekly basis for over ten years has certainly helped me understand M.S. to a much higher degree.

My initial observations were that student L found forming chord shapes difficult. She could remember the shape in her mind but there were a host of physical issues preventing her from achieving these shapes. One of the main problems was that her wrist position seemed to move quite a bit. Also getting her wrist angle and thumb position to remain consistent was a regular problem. So this meant that she was almost having to learn the process of holding the guitar each lesson. She was also finding it tricky to push the notes down to get a clean sound, but more noticeably avoiding open strings or other fretted notes. So this came down to spacial awareness and touch sensitivity. I would also say finger strength was playing a part in these problems.

The right hand was also interesting. I noticed that strumming in the correct direction wasn’t a problem. However, strumming from a specific string seemed to be more of a challenge. And some times the accuracy of rhythm wasn’t always achieved in the normal time frame – around 5 – 10 minutes. When it came to finger picking, on a basic level student L actually could find the strings relatively quickly but with multiple strings involved and faster rhythms the right hand lost accuracy.

I would also like to mention a little bit about the way in which student L interpreted instructions. With M.S. it affects your hearing and student L’s hearing was gradually diminishing. With the help of a hearing aid this did improve things but I did noticed something interesting. Some times I would ask student L to play something new and it was like her brain couldn’t quite compute what had been said. So I would either have to say it again or in a completely different way. Often this related to a visual concept or a concept that required thinking outside the box a little. I use a lot of metaphors and imagery in my teaching so student L has been great in helping me develop multiple ways to explain the same idea.

Clamp Capo                                          Knob controlled Capo

clamp-capo-bad-for-multiple-sclerosis                         planet-waves-capo-better-for-mutiple-sclerosis

When teaching guitar to student L we found using capos for songs was initially a challenge. There are certain capos which look like mini claps and require a large amount of hand strength. Student L bought several capos over the years with varying degrees of tension which proved problematic. I thought it might be a good idea to keep using them as a way of developing hand strength but this proved to be an incorrect assumption. We settled on a capo that allowed you to lie it over the fret and then just turn a knob to create the tension. Honestly don’t waist your time with clamp grip capos – it really is very difficult with someone with multiple sclerosis.

What I have learnt from teaching guitar to Student L?

teaching guitar to students with multiple sclerosis

I can safely say that I owe a lot of my knowledge about the nuances of guitar learning to student L. The issues she was finding on the guitar were akin to the difference between catwalk and high street fashion. Where very subtle problems may be found with the average student, because of her multiple sclerosis they were magnified greatly like a caricature. What I can say is that I still teach student L today so the following solutions have helped her improve in varying degrees.

Left hand Performance

In order to maintain the left hand position in both angle and area we have focused on isolating individual parts of the hand consciously. Often her thumb would move around which is the equivalent of the floor moving as you walk. You need stability in the thumb and wrist to be able to give your fingers and tendons confidence and muscle memory. So we have spent many lessons just trying to play a few chords and focusing on the thumb staying firmly in one place. I’ve also found positive reinforcement and regularly encouraging her has also helped. I think this is because it keeps her calm and not stressed as she hears buzzing it hits the wrong string. Maintaining a relaxed persona throughout the learning process is essential.

We’ve also looked at the angle of the wrist which moves dramatically without conscious attention. So we have spent many lessons trying to play single note melodies and simple chords trying to move the bottom of the wrist as little as possible.

Student L is very reliant on looking at her hand to guide it to chord positions. So we’ve taken some time to force her to feel her way between chords. Closing her eyes, looking at me or looking at music have all been used to help her become more in touch with her left hand senses.

I find getting student L to play single note sequences i.e. fingers 1 then 2 then 3 then 4 on the same string has helped with spacial improvement. We’ve done this same exercise in different orders with hammer ons, pull offs and on multiple strings. This has even helped improved the overall sound of barre chords which I never thought would become a reality.

Bends seem to be a large obstacle at the moment so we have avoided them so far to focus on other areas.

Right Hand Performance

As mentioned student L’s right hand has always been quite good at strumming patterns on a basic level. Fast strumming and intricate strumming has proved an issue because it requires quickly turning the hand over in a small area. For this reason we’ve worked on the wrist strength and trying to build strumming speed gradually. We are limited to semi quaver rhythms at the moment but we will be working on building on this even more.

The accuracy of where to strum from has been one of the biggest challenges, especially without looking at the guitar. So this has been more about the elbow positioning. If student L maintains a regular position with her right elbow, this seems to help with her locating of strings. So we’ve worked on this as well as string skipping exercises with the pick.

Another problem mentioned was finger picking. If a chord is fretted whilst working on right hand exercises it seems to confuse her brain so we’ve focused on finger picking with open strings. I’ve developed a little sequence of creating independent finger patterns in varying PIMA orders to strengthen this part of her playing. We’ve also worked on picking multiple strings at the same time which invariably is easier for her.

Teaching Student L new ideas

It’s all about clear instruction with multiple approaches to the same idea. I think there is something to be said about multiple layers and senses working together. For this reason I thought I’d play around with student L’s core senses minus taste and smell – Visual, Touch and hearing. We’ve used colours, visual diagrams, visualisation in the mind, touching certain strings with certain shapes, all with the aim of learning one new idea. This new idea might be a new type of chord like major sevenths or a new rhythm like triplets or swung quavers. I’ve found that by activating all of these senses altogether it helps to speed up the learning process. As mentioned I haven’t tried smell and taste but I have a feeling that these would help also with the learning process.

Student L today

best way to learn guitar

Student L is still a regular student of mine and each week we have new learning adventures. Her physical level on the guitar is still that of a beginner but her knowledge is very much of an intermediate. So our aim is to bring her physical level up to her understanding of the instrument. You might say well what’s the point if after ten years she’s still a beginner. To the average person or teacher this could seem very long, with minimal results and for those will little patience very frustrating. But for student L it has helped her focus on something week to week. She has small goals and has to take life week by week as the condition requires constant monitoring. Some times she has to take new drugs or new dosages of drugs. In these cases she some times is not allowed to drive and is noticeably unsteady with her balance. So any progress made, however little it is, for someone with multiple sclerosis is a huge achievement.

Are you teaching guitar?

If you are teaching guitar and have had similar experiences please do get in touch and share what you have learnt. I feel we can all help each other to improve the way we teach pupils with multiple sclerosis. Let’s give them the best lessons and learning experience possible as a community.

For more information on multiple sclerosis head over to the mssociety website which has tonnes of advice and support for those suffering with M.S.

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Human ear to show harmony through music

How to learn the guitar through ‘Active Listening’

How to learn the guitar through ‘Active Listening’

How to learn the guitar - Active listening

If you’ve been learning the guitar for a while and feel your progress may be slow you may want to try ‘active listening’. You want to know how to learn the guitar but there are so many methods out there. And you want to progress quickly because you’re mate who started a week after you is so much better. Why is that? Why have they managed to learn the guitar so quickly and you’re stuck on the same chords and songs?

Well one of the reasons someone progresses so quickly comes down to the their ears. Yes that’s right, if you want to know how to learn the guitar properly then you need good ears. So what do I mean by good ears? Well when I talk about ears I’m really talking about your listening skills and how much good music you’ve been exposed to.

What is active listening?

jonny lang - guitar star

Active listening is a different type of way to listen to music. Ordinarily you will get a playlist from Spotify or an album and stick it on in the background whilst you carry out your tasks. This type of listening is called passive listening. The interaction between you and the music is limited because your brain is distracted by various tasks. So it focuses it’s main attention on the task in front of you and the music essentially becomes ambient blur to set the mood. If you’re a standard music lover and just like to listen to music then that’s perfect. The music is achieving its purpose. But if you are someone wanting to know how to learn the guitar better then this type of music interaction is not very useful.

This leads us on to ‘Active listening’. Active listening requires listening to specific music – high quality and relates to principles you’ve been practising – and absorbing it distraction free. So active listening means you have to essentially sit with one or two songs for a sustained period of time without doing other tasks. At uni students can do this type of listening for hours. That’s very intense but they get very good very quickly.

Why is Active listening important?

Jazz guitar lessons

When you listen to music actively you will start to absorb ideas from the musicians. These ideas may never have come to you but they sound great and are now in your mind. When you’ve heard them enough it’s like lyrics of your favourite song. You don’t know why you know all the words you just do. Well these rhythms, melodies, chord changes, techniques etc start to become part of your go to instincts on the guitar. You start trying melodies and ideas that you’ve never tried before. When you analyse what you just did you realise it was a B.B. King lick or a Herbie Hancock fill. And because you’re listening to great musicians you end up sounding great when you play.

Be selective about who you actively listen to

Lionel Loueke - Great Bass guitarist

When it comes to active listening you don’t just want to listen to random stuff. The active listening is meant to serve a purpose – better rhythm, melodies, chord choice, techniques etc. So if you have a specific thing you want to improve on ask friends and fellow music lovers which musicians and artists feature that sort of thing in their music. From there you just need to actively listen a lot until you start hearing those ideas appear in your playing.

How long should you Active listen for?

I would suggest at the beginning to spend at least ten minutes doing active listening. After a week or two you should notice things creep into your guitar playing that you’ve never tried before. Over a period of time you will have the capacity to active listen for longer. I would say a good amount of active listening if you want to improve at a good rate on the guitar would be thirty minutes a day.

I hope this has helped you in your quest to become a better guitarist. If you’re looking for guitar or piano lessons feel free to get in touch. I teach at the Maxwell Park Community Centre on Mondays to Fridays and via Skype/Facetime.

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New Years Resolution - Learn the guitar

Private Guitar Lessons Vs Group Lessons

Private Guitar Lessons Vs Group Lessons

Sheldon Conrich - Guitar Teacher Borehamwood

In this blog I wanted to discuss the merits and the downsides of both private guitar lessons and group guitar lessons. Many of you may be thinking as Christmas nears to indulge in buying a friend or loved one some guitar lessons. And with this in mind you may be wondering whether to go on Groupon and buy a few group lessons or find a guitar teacher and buy some private guitar lessons. Well in this blog I’ll go through some things to think about when deciding.

Private Guitar Lessons – The Merits

Guitar Teacher - Sheldon Conrich

When it comes to private guitar lessons there are several great things that are found in the one on one environment. The first is that your lessons are catered to you. Each lesson can work on building and developing on your own personal guitaring weaknesses and strengths.

Every person is individual and has individual musical tastes. With private guitar lessons you can learn songs from your favourite artists and musicians. This is actually quite important when it comes to developing your own unique sound. This is because the people you listen to and copy will ultimately influence your guitar playing style.

Private guitar lessons can fit around you time wise. So if you can’t make a one on one session you can always move it to another day – assuming the teacher has an available space that day.

With one on one lessons you get full attention from the teacher. So there is little room for you to pick up bad habits in the lesson because they are spotted very quickly.

Some guitar teachers like to travel to student’s houses and for those with chaotic lives this may suit you better.

Group Guitar Lessons – The Merits

Clubs in Hertfordshire

When you have several people around you learning what you’re learning it can inspire you. You can see what other guitarists are doing and use that as a springboard to keep motivated. You can say, well if they can do it, then I can do it. So the group environment can keep you pushing yourself.

In a group guitar lesson because there are other people learning with you, you can get a sense of your own personal level. And this can give you confidence. Especially if you’ve started at the same time as someone else and have improved quicker.

By learning in a group environment you will have a support network of like minded guitarists who you can talk to and bounce ideas off of. Some times you will learn something in a lesson but after talking with your fellow students make sense of it better.

A group guitar lesson will usually be cheaper being that the whole group are sharing the cost of the lesson.

Often group guitar lessons are held in the evenings which can work well after work.

Generally modern day group guitar lessons have some online support with PDFs and audio to help you.

Private guitar Lessons – The Cons

In general because you are getting more attention and a bespoke set of lessons the price of private guitar lessons will be more expensive.

If you have a good teacher then chances are they are going to be quite busy. If that is the case then they may not be as flexible with times and days as you’d like.

Finding a good guitar teacher can be tricky and you may have to go through several one on one teachers before you find the right one for you. Being a good teacher is more about understanding your student’s needs rather than being the best guitar player on the planet.

Group Guitar Lessons – The Cons

Because you’re in a big group you may not get as much attention by the teacher. So if you don’t understand something or you think the speed of the lesson is too fast you may just have to put up with that.

Group guitar lessons work on a strict block with syllabus to fit in each lesson. So if you don’t fully achieve learning a particular idea one week you may struggle the next week when there is new material to learn.

If you are progressing quickly and there are others in the group learning slower it may frustrate you. Often the teacher will have to stop to give these students some guidance. For advancing guitarists this can be quite annoying.

Group guitar lessons will happen on a specific time and day each week. So if you are ill or have an arrangement you can’t get out of then you will miss the class. And as mentioned you’ll miss a whole load of new material that you will essentially have to teach yourself out of class.

Because the syllabus is set to cater for the group you may not like the style of music you are learning.

In Conclusion

private guitar lessons with sheldon conrich

There really is no right type of way to learn the guitar. I hope you’ve found out some good reasons why private guitar lessons and group guitar lessons could be the right choice for you. It’s an individual preference and ultimately comes down to your weekly schedule, routine, budget and personality. If you are looking for private guitar lessons, feel free to get in touch. For those looking for Christmas guitar lesson gifts, I have some Christmas offers waiting for you. Just ask away.




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Sheldon Conrich - Teaching pose

What is the best way to learn the guitar?

What is the best way to learn the guitar?

Solo Musician For Events - Sheldon Conrich

Every person who picks up the guitar has a different background, motivation for learning and personality. All of these factors will heavily influence the way you will practise and the best way for you to learn the guitar. So what is the best way to learn the guitar? Is there just one way? Is it through books, YouTube, guitar teacher, songs?

To answer this I will look at two different approaches and from there you can come to your own conclusion.


jonny lang - guitar star

Transcribing sounds like a very fancy word but essentially it means copying. But more than copying it means trying to copy note for note what’s going on in a song. When you transcribe a guitar part from a song you’re aiming to copying the exact chord changes, picking or strumming patterns, chord variations, soloing notes and techniques etc. Transcribing is a really great way to sound close to or even exactly like your favourite guitarists. But is it the best way to learn the guitar?

In some respects by transcribing guitar songs you will learn subconsciously a whole bunch of things. You’ll learn without having to think where chords are – maybe not their names – but certainly how to fret certain chord shapes. You’ll also learn quite advanced fret board movement but not really see it as advanced. This is because you’re copying the muscle positions rather than thought process behind these movements.

So really the transcribing approach takes away the thinking element of learning the guitar which can suit people who just want to play their favourite songs, or maybe sing and strum along to songs. This will also suit learners who are happy to learn only a few songs but play them really well and are happy to go over them lots and lots of times.

Learning the guitar musical matrix

Jazz guitar lessons

The second approach requires a different kind of motivation when it comes to learning the guitar. This approach really breaks down the individual elements of guitar learning. So for example instead of learning a chord shape, it may be a case of trying to find multiple ways of playing that chord around the fret board. This requires patience and lots of practise.

Instead of copying exactly what you hear, this method looks at understanding what you hear. So after hearing a song a few times this method would look at breaking down the guitar concepts found in the song. Maybe there are particular strumming techniques, rhythmical ideas, melodic movements etc. By delving into the guitaring matrix you’re actually trying to understand the guitarist’s mind. And this approach allows you to take what you’ve learnt and bring it into other songs. Is this the best way to learn the guitar?

Well this is the best way to get good at everything at an even rate. With the transcribing approach I generally find that these types of players have a particular thing they’re good at. For example their chord shapes or soloing ability is really high. But then their rhythm is much lower, or their tone quality is poor. With the guitar matrix approach you’ll find these players take longer to get very good, but all elements of their playing are at a similar level.

In conclusion

New Years Resolution - Learn the guitar

I can not give you the definitive best way to learn the guitar. As mentioned earlier this heavily relies upon your personality and motivations. But the great thing is that there is an approach to learning the guitar for everyone. So just try things out and see how you get on. If you’re looking for guitar lessons and live in or around the Borehamwood area feel free to get in touch. My studio is based at the Maxwell Park Community Centre and I teach Monday to Friday. Also feel free to check out some of my YouTube video lessons which look at basic rhythm, chords and scales. I hope this has been helpful for you and happy learning.

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Jazz guitar lessons

Music Geek’s Corner – What is Parallel Harmony?

Music Geek’s Corner – What is Parallel Harmony?

Solo Musician For Events - Sheldon Conrich

I thought I’d share a concept with you music geeks who crave a bit of extra harmony knowledge. A lot of people are familiar with playing a song in a key. This is a simple concept consisting of a set of chords that belong together like a family. Most of the time we use the key of C major as a sort of default key to be able to apply rules and ideas. From C major we can then convert all our knowledge to the rest of the keys.

So the key of C consists of the following notes as you may well already know: C, D, E, F, G, A, B, and C. And from here we can convert these into chords C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am and Bdim.

With this knowledge we can play quite a lot of famous songs like ‘Let it Be’, ‘Save Tonight’, ‘La Bamba’ etc. So if I assume you know about basic key knowledge (Major keys, Minor keys and modes) then we can jump right into parallel harmony. By the way it’s important to know that chords can be extended to longer sounding harmony like Maj7, min7, 7th, 1/2dim, Dim7 . These will be used a lot, so if you don’t know then get to know!

So what is Parallel Harmony?

Duo and Trio for events - Sheldon Conrich

Well parallel harmony introduces the notion of shared chord changes which come from parallel keys. So what are parallel keys? Well they’re any key that starts with the same note. So for example some of the parallel keys for the note C are:

C major, C harmonic minor, C melodic minor and C Dorian.

I’ve decided to use only four parallel keys to begin with to make this a bit easier to play around with. So let’s look at what notes and chords feature in all of these keys.

The Notes

C major – C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C

C harmonic minor – C, D, Eb, F, G, Ab, B, C

C melodic minor – C, D, Eb, F, G, A , B, C

C Dorian mode – C, D, Eb, F, G, A, Bb, C

The Chords

C major – C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am, Bdim, C

C Harmonic minor – Cmmaj7, D 1/2dim, Ebmaj7#5, Fm7, G7, Abmaj7, Bdim7

C melodic minor – Cmmaj7, Dm7, Ebmaj7#5, F7, G7, A 1/2dim, B 1/2dim,

C Dorian – Cm7, Dm7, Ebmaj7, F7, Gm7, A 1/2 dim, Bbmaj7

Using Parallel Harmony

What is a phrase - Michael Brecker

Now that we have the chords written out it’s about finding cool ways to mix and blend these parallel keys together to create something interesting and different. Subsequently the melodies that you use for a chord will correspond to the scale the chord comes from. I.e. If you choose Dm7 from C dorian then your melody notes will come from the C dorian mode. Got it! So down to the practical stuff – the combos.

These are just some parallel harmony chord choices I’ve decided to use. You can obviously play around with your own stuff. By the way, this technique can make your progressions go very jazzy or neo soul.

  1. Cmaj7     Ebmaj7   Dm7          G13
    (Major) (Dorian) (Dorian) (Major)
  2. Cmaj7    Abmaj7      Gm7           G7
    (Major) (Harm)   (Dorian)  (Harm)
  3. Cm           A 1/2dim   Abmaj7  Fm
    (Harm)  (Melodic)  (Harm) (Harm)
  4. Cm             Ab             Eb                 Bb
    (Dorian)  (Harm) (Dorian)  (Dorian)
  5. Cmaj7     Fmaj7    Em7       Ebmaj7
    (Major) (Major) (Major) (Dorian)

Ok so now you should know a little bit more about parallel harmony and how to construct your own chord progressions. Once you’ve got used to the four scale options above try adding more modes into the mix. Explore more parallel harmony from the major scale, harmonic minor scale and melodic minor scale. Then try different keys on your instrument. Always do this on your instrument so you can feel the changes. Some changes work theoretically but sound or feel wrong. Happy playing and good luck.

Any questions feel free to get in touch.

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Guitar techniques - Common mistakes to avoid

Guitar Techiniques – Common Mistakes to Avoid

Common Problems found with Guitar Techniques

Guitar techniques - Common mistakes to avoid

If you’re learning to play the guitar then you may just be getting into learning some guitar techniques. Some of these guitar techniques include sliding, bending, hammer ons, pull offs, finger picking, strumming and many others. It is important to remember that these techniques will improve greatly over time with some care and attention. However if you don’t concentrate on improving your guitar techniques it will show further down the line. So what are these common mistakes to avoid?

Fret Buzz

Guitar String notes

I’m sure you’ve experienced this as you’ve strummed or played a note, the dreaded note buzz. It’s a common mistake made and can actually follow guitar learners for some time. So here are the three things to make sure you do to avoid getting fret buzz.

  • Make sure you’re fingers are close to the fret
  • Make sure you push hard enough
  • Make sure your finger is on its tip

If you follow these three rules you’ll avoid fret buzz in no time.

Crumpling Barre Chords

jazz cafe guitar n me

A lot of people dread the barre chord because they find it causes cramping and discomfort in the fretting hand. This is quite normal and is generally what happens at the early stages of playing so just stick with it. However a common mistake you should avoid can be found when moving from one barre chord to the next. A lot of people find their fingers squishing together as they move along the fret board. So to avoid this try thinking about these as you move your barre chord along the neck.

  • Loosen your fingers before you move but maintain the overall shape
  • Take your thumb off the back of the neck before you move
  • Be clear as to what barre chord you’re trying to achieve before you arrive at your chosen frets

Dead or quiet hammer ons

Joe Pass Guitar Scales

When it comes to guitar techniques we can’t miss out the hammer on. This bad boy features in the majority of classic solos and chord progressions. But a bad sounding hammer on can really dishearten the learning guitarist. Especially those trying to copy their favourite songs and failing because of a poor sounding hammer on. You’ll hear buzzing sounds, or a quiet note or some times no note. Here are some things to think about before you try a hammer on.

  • Raise your hammering finger high
  • Attack through the fretboard rather than stopping at the note
  • Attempt to squeeze the note as you land
  • Aim the hammer close to the fret

There are plenty more common mistakes made when learning guitar techniques. If you would like to know more about how to improve this part of your guitar playing feel free to get in touch. I teach guitar from Monday to Friday in Borehamwood and via Skype/Facetime. If you would like guitar lessons with me get in touch.

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What is a phrase - Michael Brecker

What Is A Phrase In Music?

What is a phrase in music?

What is a phrase - Michael Brecker

When you hear your favourite musicians perform there will be something about their playing that attracts you to them. You may not be able to put your finger on it, but you just know that you like what they’re doing. I feel a lot of this attraction comes down to the way the music is being communicated. Depending on your personality and musical likes, you’ll look for different things when listening to music. But inside the genres are nuisances which separate one performer to another. These differences are largely down to the way each musician phrases their solo or chord playing. And these unique phrasing choices give each performer their unique musical personality. So what is a phrase?

Fundamentals of music

To answer the question ‘what is a phrase?’ we need to understand a little bit of the fundamentals of music. What is music? Well the key components to any piece of music are melody. harmony and rhythm. Melody deals with the single top line – the thing you sing along to. Harmony deals with the chords – the bed on which the melody sits on top of. Finally the rhythm ties everything together by creating repeated and varied patterns of sound.

Where does phrasing come in?

Ok so with the knowledge of melody, harmony and rhythm we bring in the notion of patterns. In music patterns are usually small bursts of musical ideas which repeat in slightly varied ways. These patterns can come from the melody and rhythm or focus more on the chords and rhythm. Take for example “Wonderwall” by Oasis. There are essentially five chords played in slightly different orders throughout the song. However the specific phrased strumming pattern combined with these chords gives the song it’s unique iconic status. If we change the rhythm, or change the chord structure we may well lose this iconic sound.

Another example would be the solo to Johnny B Goode by Chuck Berry. The song itself is essentially a rock and roll blues. There’s nothing unique about a rock n roll blues as it follows a structured 12 bar format. Yet Johnny B Goode has an iconic solo. It is the combination of the melodic choices along with the rhythms used that sets Chuck Berry’s solo apart from the rest.

Developing musical phrasing

What is a phrase - Oasis

Hopefully now you are not asking “what is a phrase?” and asking “how do I develop my musical phrases?”. This is something that for me is probably the most important thing to practise in music. Anyone can play a bunch of chords. Anyone can take one pattern of the minor pentatonic scale and play a bunch of notes from it. The difference between a world class player, to a good player, to an average player to a beginner comes down to the phrases they choose. Some times I listen to certain players and think “How on earth did they come up with that?”. Saxophonist Michael Brecker’s note choices, rhythms and lengths of ideas are fresh every time you hear them. As are someone like Kenny Burrell on guitar. Yet they must have developed these skills some how.

For me, it’s important to listen to a lot of music. The more music you listen to and the more varied it is the more phrasing you are naturally exposed to. If you only listen to one style of music then you will only pick up that style’s rhythms, harmony and melody. That’s fine but it will not make you sound unique or different. You’ll be a clone of your chosen genre. By listening to a wide range of styles and intently, you will pick up ideas that you can bring into a new song or solo that you’re learning.

Imitate then Innovate

The best way to develop great phrasing at first is to imitate the solos and strumming patterns you like the most. Listen to your favourite musicians playing and try to copy them best you can. Remember you’re not actually copying them, you’re copying all their musical influences without realising it. From there you can take their solo and start altering the note choices, lengths of ideas and rhythms. At this point you will no longer sound like an imitating musician but rather a fresh free thinking performer. Now this process is something that takes decades to do and I’m still refining, improving and defining my own style. As I expose myself to more music, understand the mind set of the person I’m listening to, I begin to see where I can bring in my own essence to the music.

Keep doing it

Sheldon Conrich - Guitar Teacher

A final thought for you. You may have no idea where to start when it comes to developing great musical phrasing. Ultimately trust your instincts and keep at it. Keep listening, playing, making mistakes, improving and having fun. At some point it all comes together with time, practise and dedication.

If you do need any help improving your phrasing or still want to know what is a phrase feel free to get in touch. I teach guitar and piano lessons at my studio in Borehamwood and Skype/Facetime lessons online.

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Sheldon Conrich - Guitar Teacher Borehamwood

Advice for those planning to learn the guitar

Advice for those planning to learn the guitar

Learn the guitar with Sheldon

If you’re planning to learn the guitar and have that inner guitar learning buzz, that’s absolutely great. Today I wanted to give you some advice and some things to think about before you embark on your guitar learning journey.

Don’t spend too much at the beginning

You may have seen your favourite guitarist using an SG, Telecaster, PRS or Gibson Les Paul. And so you may be thinking you want to learn the guitar just like them. Just be aware that at the early stages of learning  it is important not to invest too much money into something you haven’t mastered yet. I have several guitars as a professional guitarist and teacher but these have been collected over the years. They all serve different purposes depending on what musical set up I’m in and what type of music I decide to play. Start with affordable guitars from companies like Yamaha, Epiphone, Fender etc and leave the Martins, Les Pauls and Strats until you feel competent with what you’re doing.

Your minimum outlay should be a cheap electric, acoustic or classical guitar. From there you may want to get a bunch of picks, a tuner, spare set of strings, capo and string winder. If you’re an electric guitarist then you’ll also need to get a lead and a small – probably 10 – 15 watt amp to begin with.

Be realistic about what you want to achieve

Learning to Play Guitar

When you see a guitarist playing in a band you may think it looks pretty simple what they’re doing. You may have a notion that in 6 months time you’ll be shredding up and down the fret board and strumming your favourite songs around the camp fire. I would urge you to be realistic about what you want to achieve when you learn the guitar.

For the first six months or so you’ll invariably learn a bunch of chords and simple songs to apply these chords to. You’ll hopefully develop a handful of usable strumming patterns and if you like soloing you’ll learn some simple melodies and solos. Obviously if you want to achieve more than this, it is possible, but you need to put the time and practise in regularly.

Are regular lessons important?

Sheldon Conrich - Guitar Teacher

This question can be answered by looking at your personality and how busy you are as a person. If you want to learn the guitar you’ll need guidance. Now this could come from a book, YouTube, CD, DVD or one on one guitar lessons. If you are someone who needs very little motivation to do something and can keep going regardless of hurdles then the self teaching path is probably best for you. As long as you keep asking questions and find mediums to answer those questions you’ll improve.

If you are someone who needs structure, if you’re busy and have little time to search for lessons and ideas, and need someone to motivate you when learning becomes hard then you’ll need a regular guitar teacher. Having lessons with a guitar teacher on a regular basis will keep you on the straight and narrow. Before you can pick up bad habits these will be ironed out. If you get easily frustrated or confused a guitar teacher will bring you back to the correct technique or chord position.

How much should you Practise?

The thing about learning the guitar or any instrument is you have to put the practise time in. One key reason for this is that you need to develop the muscle memory. Your aim as a guitar player is to get to the point where your fingers do the work for you and the guitar almost plays itself. It’s like when you’re driving on autopilot. In order to get to that level you’ll need regular daily, yes daily, practise. Even if you get 10 minutes in a day that’s better than none. This is why it is important before making the commitment to learning the guitar that you recognise how much of your free time it will take up. If you have a passion for guitar and want to learn then just be aware that some of your daily free time will need to be practising.

Follow Your Instincts

If you want to learn the guitar and have your mind set on it then follow your instincts. If regular weekly lessons with a guitar teacher appeals to you then go down that route. If more casual YouTube guitar lessons is your thing then start with that. Either way, welcome to the wonderful world of guitar learning. If you do need guitar lessons and would like to book guitar lessons in Borehamwood feel free to get in touch. If you live outside Borehamwood I also offer Skype guitar lessons.



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Sign of the times EP - instrumental music

What Are Guitar Exams All About?

What are guitar exams all about?

Guitar Exams - Taking your guitar grades

After receiving my students’ latest guitar grade results it got me thinking about guitar exams. I wanted to share some of my incites into what is involved in a guitar exam and the reasons and motivations behind why some students like to take them periodically.

Why do students take guitar exams?

Guitar exams are essentially a way for students to be able to recognise their level and ability at various stages of their learning. For those of your who like to set goals and aims guitar exams are a really good way to do this. By preparing for a guitar grade you are given a time frame and a set syllabus to learn in that period. It can give you focus, motivation and an ultimate destination to your practise. There is also a self satisfaction that students get when they take time to prepare for something and then are rewarded with a grade certificate.

What is involved in a guitar exam?

Guitar grades are split into different sections. One part of the exam is a performance section which relies on heavy preparation. You have to learn a set of pieces which you then perform in front of an examiner. Each examining board has a slightly different marking system and criteria so be sure to look at the syllabus first before you set off.
After the performance section there is another prepared section for scales, arpeggios and exercises. Here you must learn a set of scales etc in various positions on the guitar.
You then have a section called the aural test which involves listening and answering some questions related to what you’ve heard. These may involve rhythm, time signatures, intervals, key signatures and various guitar techniques.
As a general consensus the least favourite section is generally sight reading. This is a piece of music you will not have seen until the exam. You will then have to perform the music after a short time of preparation.

Once you’ve gone through these core sections the exam is basically over and it’s then a waiting game for your results.

What type of guitar exams can you take?

At the moment for guitar you have a nice mix of guitar exams on offer. You can take grades for rock guitar, classical guitar, acoustic guitar and jazz guitar. Different examining boards offer different types of grades so it’s important to know which examining body to use for your guitar type.

What examining boards are there?

The main examining bodies in the UK are:

Where do you get the guitar exam books from?

In general the main places to buy books for guitar grades are from Amazon, booksforguitar, musicroom and rockschool’s website.

Do you want to take a guitar exam?

Have you been thinking about taking an exam for guitar and need some help? As a guitar teacher for over ten years I have guided a large amount students to successfully passing their grades. With regular weekly guitar lessons and the right type of encouragement you will find yourself passing even the most challenging guitar exam. If you do want to take a grade or just start up guitar lessons for fun feel free to get in touch.