Resources

Becoming a musician requires a number of skills that need to be honed by consistent practice. Having natural musical ability helps the promising independent artist but ultimately reaching your potential depends on your organization, patience, and perseverance. Here are some highly rewarding, quality resources to help your progress. I have personal experience with all of the resources on this page and highly recommend each of them.

 

All he wants to do is practice and that’s all he does, all day long. That’s what it takes if you want to change the face of music. You’ve gotta be committed to it – Jimmy Chamberlin (about Sean Woolstenhulme)

Resources for the Instrumentalist

Playing an instrument changes your perspective on music and opens up an entirely new world of musical possibilities. Your songwriting improves, you can now jam with your musical friends and you can accompany your own singing. Sure sounds like a win-win situation to me! The guitar and keyboard or piano are favorites because they are the most common in popular music and can provide sole accompaniment to vocals.
The downside? Learning to play an instrument may be the most time-consuming skill on this list. From my personal experience, learning to play the guitar, your progress may seem painstakingly slow, especially when you want to spew out a rock guitar solo like Jimi Hendrix. Sometimes you may find yourself trying to accomplish the same tasks every day but that darn instrument just won’t make the right sounds. Most people give up at this point but my observation is that “muscle memory” takes over and reflection makes it clear that you are making progress after all.

Justin Guitar

When I first picked up my father’s acoustic guitar I had no clue how to play the first note, then I discovered Justin Guitar. Justin Sandercoe, my first guitar teacher, offers free video guitar lessons on his website divided into a series of courses. The Beginner’s Course takes you through basic open chords and scales but there is an Intermediate Course and other genre specific courses that you can benefit from. One thing I like about Justin’s approach is that after learning three chords he encourages you to play songs so you can strum the chords to Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds from Day One. Self-discipline is crucial; sticking to Justin’s schedule was sometimes an issue for me as at points I found myself skipping lessons or doing several in one sitting. All you need is a guitar to start lessons.

Yousician

yousician

Yousician turns practicing your instrument into an addictive video game if you’re learning to play the guitar, bass guitar, piano or ukulele  Simple tutorials, colourful side-scrolling musical notes and levels of increasing difficulty make learning fun and keep you coming back to play. Songs include old songs that have expired copyright, such as Greensleeves and Happy Birthday, as well as quirky, sometimes hilarious original songs. The software keeps track of what notes you missed and the accuracy of your timing for each song to come up with a score that you can compare with your own past performances and those of others. The note detection is spot on for the most part but on rare occasions, you will find yourself at odds with its decisions. My only downsides to this software are that many of the user-submitted songs are horribly out of time and you will need some way of capturing your performance, either a microphone or audio interface. Yousician allows a free 20-30 minute lesson every 12 hours and offers individual monthly plans for $9.99, or $119.99 per year. To can unlock lessons for all four instruments for $179.99 per year.

Metronome

A boring but important addition to the list, a metronome is a device with a singular purpose: to show you how atrocious and sloppy your own sense of timing is. Practice with a metronome enough and your timing will improve, guaranteed. A versatile metronome will be able to keep timing at a wide range of tempos. It helps to have a metronome app on your phone and we have a reliable metronome on our site.

For more complex features such as multiple time signatures (4/4 timing is standard but 3/4, 6/8 and others may be necessary especially for exotic genres like flamenco) try this more advanced version.

Guitar tuner

fender guitar tumer

Pianos need to be tuned about once per year on average and electronic keyboards never go out of tune but for guitars, it’s a different story altogether. Acoustic guitars, electric guitars and bass guitars may need tuning as often as every day. It is a good habit to check whether your guitar is in tune each time you play. Several options are available for guitar tuning. Clip-on or headstock tuners are cheap and useful. There are also excellent free tuners online such as this one from Fender.

Chord Identifier

Sometimes, especially with a rudimentary knowledge of music theory, you play a great sounding chord but can’t name it. This basic chord identifier does just that. Simply enter the names of the notes in the chord and it will give you a list of chords containing those notes.

Resources for the Vocalist

In most forms of music, the lead vocal carries the main melody and lyrics of the song and the human ear naturally is drawn to the sound of the human voice. This makes the vocals the most important instrument in almost every song that has vocals, and that’s the vast majority. The lead vocal is usually sung; other possibilities are rapping, “deejaying” or spoken word. These resources will help you gain full control of your voice.
 

Superior Singing Method

Aaron Anastasi clearly knows a lot about the physiology of singing and good singing technique. His course consists of a number of vocal exercises broken up into 8 Modules (Warm Up Exercises, Breath Management, Vocal Tone, Pitch, Power & Resonance, High Notes & Mix, Vocal Agility, Advanced Strengthening & Techniques)

Resources for Songwriting

“It all begins with a song” is the succinct motto of the Nashville Songwriters Association International. The point shouldn’t be lost on us. Before factors such as performance, recording, and mixing can affect the quality of your music, song quality makes its mark. Writing a great song is the oft neglected first step to making good music.
 

Rhyme Zone

This free online rhyming dictionary is useful when you’re writing lyrics and need some suggestions of rhymes or near rhymes. Other features include synonyms, antonyms, descriptive words and definitions making this a useful tool to have handy while writing.

Master Writer

A very popular songwriting program with a built in dictionary, thesaurus, rhyme dictionary, phrases and alliterations, Master Writer is a step up from typing lyrics in your regular word processor. It allows you to collect relevant words and phrases for use in your song, utilizing a split screen. The selling point of this software is organization: Rather than having to click or flip through different pages, you have all of the tools you need to write a great lyric in one accessible place. I have used Master Writer before and personally found that it was easy to maintain a consistent rhythm scheme because the software automatically counts the syllables in each line. Master Writer offers a free trial period and licenses are $9.95 monthly, $99.95 annually and $149.95 for two years.

MuseScore

At some point in your songwriting career you will need to transcribe your songs (by this I mean creating sheet music) and for this purpose, I recommend MuseScore which is a free, open source, multiplatform notation software. If you understand music notation, MuseScore is relatively simple with few bells and whistles, and it is my tool of choice for transcription projects.