Taking Piano Lessons in San Antonio? Finger Exercises are Crucial

In order to play the piano well, you need to have flexible, dexterous fingers that can move across the keys easily and nimbly. Though practicing can help you develop this ability gradually, there are certain finger exercises that can actually improve your flexibility faster and make furthering your talents even easier.

Are you taking piano lessons in San Antonio? If you want to be as skilled as possible, you should be working a number of finger exercises and stretches into each and every one of your practice sessions. Not sure where to start? Here are a few standard exercises to get you going:

  • Basic stretching. Start with some basic stretches. Close your fingers into small, tight fists, hold them there for about 10 seconds. Release the fingers, extending them out completely. Repeat this two more times. Then, take a few seconds to stretch and bend each individual finger. This helps encourage your digits to work independently of each other – a crucial component of piano playing.
  • Use a rubber band. Get a small rubber band and wrap it around two adjacent fingers. Then, try moving the fingers apart from each other. Move them sideways, up, down and away from the other in any way you can, and build up the muscles of each individual finger. Be sure to switch off, and do this exercise with different sets of two every time.
  • Increase the gaps. Sometimes, pieces of music require you to stretch the thumb and pinky of one hand far distances across the keyboard. To make this easier, try these two practices. First, place your thumb on middle C. Then, use your pinky to stretch all the way up to the C key of the next octave. If you can go higher, do so! Do this on the other hand as well. You can also do some hand stretching off the piano, too. Just lay your hand on a flat surface, spread your fingers out, and use your other hand to slowly and gradually fan your fingers out further, increasing the gap between each one. Do this regularly and you’ll see a greatly improved range of motion.

Are you taking piano lessons in San Antonio? Then be sure to work these exercises into your practice sessions. Want more tips? Contact the Musical Arts Center of San Antonio today.

Singing Lessons for Kids: What Age Can They Start?

Enrolling your child in singing lessons for kids can be a great way to encourage their passions, develop their talents and give them a great foundation for a successful career later on in life. But at what age should they get started? Do you enroll them the first second you see a glimmer of musical interest? Or is it better to wait until they’re old enough to ask for the lessons themselves?

These are common questions we get from parents, and the truth is there are no set-in-stone answers. Every child is different, with different interests, abilities and attention spans. Because of this, determining if a child is ready for singing lessons for kids should be done on a case by case basis. Specifically, parents should consider these traits in their child:

  • Ability to focus and pay attention. The most important thing a vocal student can do is focus. If you’re considering enrolling your child in vocal lessons, consider their attention span. Will they be able to sit still, pay attention and work hard for 30 minutes straight? Or will the lesson turn into a glorified babysitting session 10 minutes after you leave? If your child isn’t quite ready to be still for that long, it may be beneficial to wait.
  • Interest and passion for music. How musically inclined is your child? Are they constantly singing, dancing and listening to the radio? Do they beg to perform at every holiday gathering? You want to be sure they’re actually interested in singing before enrolling them in lessons. If they’re not, they’ll get bored, stop paying attention and the lessons will essentially go nowhere, no matter how good the instructor is.
  • Vocal development. Typically, a child’s voice will keep changing until their late teens or early 20s, but the biggest changes come around puberty. Though it is possible for a child to start vocal lessons before puberty, they’ll need to adjust their methods once their voice begins to change in a few years. Most vocal instructors prefer to take students who have reached this peak age, as their voices have already gone through their most significant changes.

Are you considering enrolling your child in vocal lessons? Then contact the Musical Arts Center of San Antonio today. We offer singing lessons for kids of all ages. We’ll even match your child with the perfect instructor for their age and musical goals.

Building a Foundation for Lifelong Music SM

Our Values and Goals

“We teachers bring music out of other people. We help to unleash them.  A friend once asked me – ‘Where is the art in teaching?’  I responded – ‘We teachers build our masterpieces inside of other people’”.                  Kenneth Thompson

Ken 2016Speech Given by Kenneth Thompson,
Executive Director and Founder of
Musical Arts Center of San Antonio, Inc.,

Why did I start teaching?

I began piano at age 13 in order to learn ragtime.  I used to think that classical music was boring.  In fact, I hated it.  But, after I had lessons for a couple of months, I heard some classical piano music again.  Because of the small “hook” of having a little understanding of how difficult it was to play so many notes so fast,  my mind and ears woke up and I was amazed.  Soon I was listening to the music itself more than to its difficulty and I could not listen enough.

I was in awe.

I quickly became obsessed with classical music and after six months of lessons I decided that I wanted to be a concert pianist. I had a lot of catching up to do so I practiced very hard.  Four to six hours of practice a day became normal for me.

I know that my life was changed by music and by the relationship that I had with my piano teachers.  I was lucky to find a good teacher who lived nearby and who moved me on to an advanced teacher when the time was right.  These teachers believed in me and did their best to see that the love that I had for music would grow and grow.

Before I had music in my life I was an underachiever.  Through my piano studies, however, besides learning about music, I learned long term, intermediate term, and short-term goal setting.  I learned self-discipline.  I learned how to delay gratification, how to overcome procrastination, how to face my fear of performing, how to take criticism, and how to creatively solve problems.

As a performer I had a desire to share my love of music with others.  I particularly liked to speak with audiences about the music I would be performing for them.  When they had a little knowledge about the music they would be hearing, I found that the audience would connect to the music on a much deeper level.

After several years of performing I realized that my personality was more suited to teaching.  I also realized that even though I could reach many different people by performing in front of an audience, and hopefully spark a love of music in them, that with teaching I could go much deeper.  I realized that the teacher can think of themselves as a conductor might see their musical contribution to an orchestra.  As a conductor does for the musicians in the orchestra, we teachers bring music out of other people. We help to unleash them.  A friend once asked me – “Where is the art in teaching?”  I responded – “We teachers build our masterpieces inside of other people”.

I believe that anyone who even just likes music is innately musical.  I feel, therefore, that it is my job to remove the barriers from them that are keeping this music from getting out.  I think of how Michelangelo when making a statue, would see the statue already completely formed inside of a piece of raw marble.  He simply had to remove the rock surrounding the statue to let the masterpiece out.

For us teachers the barriers to remove may be students who don’t practice, parents who are annoying or students who are immature.  But I believe that if you keep a student long enough and teach them well enough, so that they can eventually unlock the secrets of music on their own, you will then have a person who will be able to feel and experience the power of music itself.

Our job as beginning to intermediate teachers is to get our students to that point.  Some students will quit before we see them get there, but the optimist in me has to believe that some day the seeds we plant will sink in and grow.  The job of the intermediate to advanced teacher, I feel, is to continue this process.  Once a person is in love with music and they have that fire to learn more and more, it is our job as intermediate to advanced teachers to give them the physical, mental, emotional, and listening techniques necessary to be able to combine their personal musical vision with the musical vision of the composer.  If we are teaching improvisers and composers rather than performers, then we must teach them to balance structure and spontaneity so that they can go where their musical inspiration carries them.

I feel that teaching music is one of best careers you can have.  We teachers invest in people and we bring beauty to the world.

It is an honor to be a music teacher.

Why did I start Musical Arts Center of San Antonio?

I had a very successful studio in my home for about eight years.  I taught seven days a week for six years only taking a day off every three months or so.  I worked with great intensity on my teaching skills but, I was lonely and felt that I was missing something.  I would sometimes not leave the parameters of my house and yard for five days at a time.  At that time I was married to Dr. Carolyn True who is a professor at Trinity University.  I liked the way that the faculty at Trinity interacted.  I liked the way that they supported and challenged each other.  I figured that I was probably not the only private teacher who felt cut off from other teaching colleagues.  I thought that a community music school would provide the kind of support and interaction I was looking for.  Additionally, my home studio was near downtown San Antonio and I had parents driving from all over town to get to my studio.  The parents always seemed stressed from driving their kids all over the city to different teachers.  I knew that locating a school in a more convenient location would be beneficial to the parents and hopefully give them more quality time with their children.

I know that once a parent understands the value of music and the value of having an excellent music instructor that they will go just about anywhere to get their children to this teacher.  Thus I have always seen MACSA as striving to have a faculty that is a collection of teaching stars.  Whether your specialty is very advanced classical students, beginning students, working with special needs students, or working with students who currently have only a casual interest in what you are trying to do for them, what I ask of you, and what I ask of all MACSA teachers, is that you do your best.  That you continue to learn, that you continue to improve, and that you continue to grow.

MACSA seeks to create a win-win-win situation.  The parents have more convenience, the teachers are supported so they can do their jobs to the best of their ability, and the students are given the chance to have their lives touched by the power of music.

Our slogan – “Building a Foundation for Lifelong Music SM” – What does this mean?

Most simply it is that a student who you teach for long enough to be musically literate, should be able, years after quitting lessons, to open a music book and learn a piece of music on their own.  I always think of the student who studies music in high school and then gives it up when they go to college.  When this person settles down after landing their first job, would they be able to successfully learn or make music on their own?   My first pedagogy teacher put this notion another way – “Great teachers teach themselves out of a job”.

There is a lot of truth in this statement.  If I am teaching someone anything at all I would be considered to have successfully taught them if they could do what I am teaching them without me being there to help.  Of course there is a scary side of this too – If we teach ourselves out of a job we would have no job and therefore no income! This is bad.
Fortunately for us, however, we teach music.  We teach a subject that is so vast that no single person will ever learn all of it.  My answer to the scary part of teaching yourself out of a job is to keep learning yourself.  Stay ahead of your students! Or if you specialize in early level music, learn about childhood development, personality styles or anything else to help you do a better job.  In my experience a great teacher of any level in a convenient location has no trouble attracting students.

Thus we as teachers are still in the lifelong music process.  We are still building our own “foundation for lifelong music”.  We need inspiration too!  This is one of the reasons that at MACSA we do teacher enrichment activities such as workshops, or private coachings with other teachers.  When we challenge ourselves to grow we can more effectively lead our students to the bounty that great music naturally provides.

San Antonio Voice Lessons: How to Avoid Straining Your Voice

If you’re enrolled in San Antonio voice lessons, that means you’re going to be singing quite often – at least a half hour a week for lessons, then all those hours you’ll spend practicing. That doesn’t even include time spent in your school’s musical or choir, or the time you might spend singing in your band. By the end of the week, you could easily have spent 10 or more hours singing!

With all this constant use, it can be easy to strain your vocal cords. As a singer, you can’t afford to stress your instrument. To avoid straining your voice, and ensure your vocal health during your San Antonio voice lessons, just follow these 3 helpful tips:

  • Don’t force your chest voice to go higher than it can. This thickens your vocal cords and increases pressure on your voice. Instead, let your voice go naturally to the higher notes, even if it sounds a little quiet or weak. If you keep practicing, this part of your voice will gradually get stronger naturally, without ever having to strain.
  • Breathe properly and sing from your diaphragm. Don’t rely fully on your throat muscles to help you sing. Instead, breathe deeply and evenly, and let your abdominal and diaphragm muscles do the work. Not only does this relieve pressure on your vocal cords, it also allows you to move your voice more freely.
  • Stay hydrated. It’s important to drink water before, during and after a performance. This keeps your throat and vocal cords lubricated, and it makes them more flexible as you continue to sing. You should also avoid alcohol and smoking, as these can dry out the throat and cause inflammation.

Are you enrolled in San Antonio voice lessons? Then follow these tips and take care of your instrument. The more you take care of your voice, the better it will serve you in the future. Contact the Musical Arts Center of San Antonio to learn more or to enroll in voice lessons today.

4 Tips that Can Make Private Guitar Lessons Easier

If you’ve never played an instrument before, starting private guitar lessons can be a little overwhelming. You’ll have to find your way around your instrument, get to know your teacher and, of course, learn to read music, recognize notes, play scales and much, much more.

Fortunately, as long you choose the right instructor, private guitar lessons won’t be as challenging as you think. To make your initial lessons a bit easier, try out these four helpful tips:

  • Buy a guitar that fits your body. Too many beginning guitar players buy instruments that are much too big for them. This makes it a pain to hold, difficult to get comfortable with and, more importantly, really hard to play. For children and teens, it’s usually best to purchase a smaller sized guitar, one that fits their size and stature better. That way, they’re able to hold and play it comfortably and without straining.
  • Invest in a few crucial tools. If there’s one tool that can make your lessons significantly easier, it’s an electronic tuner. These ensure your instrument is always in tune and ready to play, and they don’t require a lot of time or expertise to use. Other important tools include a sturdy strap, so you can play while standing and sitting, a capo, to raise the pitch, and a few packs of extra picks and strings.
  • Learn to read tabs. Learning to read music is difficult, but learning to read tabs is much more straightforward. Tabs are a good way to get started before you transition to traditional notation. Plus, tabs make it infinitely easier to pick up new songs, and they don’t take much time or effort to understand.
  • Watch your calluses. The more you play, the more calluses will start to build up on your fingertips. While these might not look physically appealing, they actually protect your fingers and make it easier to play in the long run. Don’t pick at them, cut them off or do anything else to remove them. At most, you can smooth them out a bit with a nail file; otherwise, let them be.

Think you’re ready to take on private guitar lessons? Then contact the Musical Arts Center of San Antonio today. We’ll match you with the ideal instructor for your needs and goals.

Taking Guitar Classes in San Antonio? 6 Items You’ll Need to Purchase

When you’re about to start taking guitar classes in San Antonio, obviously, you’ll need an acoustic or electric guitar. But those aren’t the only supplies you’ll need if you want to have a successful lesson.

Before you head to your first class, be sure to stock up on these six crucial items:

  1. Tuner – If you’re taking guitar classes in San Antonio for the first time, then you’ll definitely need a tuner. This will help you keep your instrument in tune before, during and after your lessons. Over time, you’ll be able to tune your guitar by ear, but this can take years to master.
  2. Capo – A capo is a small device that you place on the neck of your guitar. It helps raise the pitch of your guitar, allowing you to play higher notes without retuning your strings. Many popular songs require a capo to play, so you’ll want to invest in one early. A spring-clamp capo or a strap-on capo are both great options.
  3. Case – To protect your guitar while you travel to and from lessons, you’ll want to invest in a good, quality case. Though soft cases may save you cash, generally, you’ll want a hard case. This will best protect your guitar if you drop it, hit it against a wall or make any other error.
  4. Strap – Straps help you keep your instrument close to you, without having to use your hands. This makes it easy to play while standing – a crucial skill you’ll need to learn.
  5. Extra strings – Strings don’t last forever. In fact, chances are you’ll break one or two in just the first couple of lessons. Try to buy a multi-pack that offers you at least two or three of each string.
  6. Instruction book – Contact your teacher, and find out what instruction book they want you to purchase. This will have all your lessons, songs and assignments that you’ll need to use throughout your classes.

Are you considering taking guitar classes in San Antonio? Then come to the Musical Arts Center. Our expert teachers can help you master the instrument of your choice in no time. We even offer performance opportunities! Call 210-697-7111 or fill in our Interested in Lessons form.

San Antonio Piano Lessons Can Be a Form of Therapy

While enrolling your child in San Antonio piano lessons can certainly be fun, did you know they can also serve as a form of therapy as well? It may sound far-fetched, but it’s 100% true. Music lessons have actually been proven to help children with anxiety, developmental problems, emotional issues and more. They’ve even been helpful for children with learning disorders, disabilities and autism.

Music as Therapy
Generally dubbed “music therapy,” piano, voice, guitar and other musical lessons have been used by professional therapists and counselors for many years. They are typically used to address physical, social, emotional and even cognitive issues in children, though they sometimes may even be used to help adult patients.

Our San Antonio piano lessons – and other musical programs – can be used as therapy for your child by:

  • Offering a new avenue of communication – If your child has difficulty communicating or expressing him or herself, then music can often help. It offers a new avenue of communication, one that doesn’t require speaking or using words. Over time, these improved communication skills will often transfer over to other areas of life.
  • Providing physical rehabilitation – For children with physical disabilities, particularly those that affect the arms, legs, hands and feet, piano lessons can have significantly rehabilitative effects. They can improve movement, hand-eye coordination and dexterity.
  • Serving as an emotional outlet – Many children aren’t responsive to traditional spoken counseling and therapy. Through their voice and various musical instruments, they are often more willing to express their thoughts, emotions and struggles. This can help alleviate stress and improve emotional well-being.

Enroll Your Child Today
Could your child utilize the therapeutic benefits of music? Then contact the Musical Arts Center today and enroll in our San Antonio piano lessons. We’ll match your child with the perfect teacher for their specific needs and goals.

Don’t Stop at Private Guitar Lessons – Get Performing!

Enrolling in private guitar lessons is one thing, but if you really want to succeed in the music scene – either academically or professionally – then you can’t stop there. You also need to hone your performing skills, too. And what better way to do that then performing in and around San Antonio?

If you’re enrolled in private guitar lessons, you should be showing off the skills you learn in local performances and concerts on a regular basis. Though it may be a little overwhelming at first, the more you do it, the better you’ll become. Soon enough, you’ll grab that first chair in your school band, you’ll make the cut in the school musical, or you’ll get into the music college of your choice.

Not sure where to start? Here are some ways to get performing:

  1. Participate in competitions – Compete in local, state and international festivals with other musicians your age. At MACSA, we can even help you enroll and prepare for these!
  2. Take part in our rock shows – We host regular rock shows and acoustic shows in public venues around San Antonio and at our outdoor plaza in Stone Oak. Perform a song or two at the next one, and show off your skills for the community.
  3. Join Performance Club – We even offer a Performance Club, where you and other musicians can participate in regular recitals. These help you improve your performance skills and get noticed.
  4. Look for local open mics – Many coffee shops, restaurants and bars in the area offer regular open mic sessions. Just show up with your instrument and you can take part for free.
  5. Get involved at school – Take advantage of the musical opportunities your school provides. Whether its band, orchestra, choir or even a school radio station, it will help you improve your performing skills immensely.

Are you taking private guitar lessons? Then improve your skills even further by getting out there and performing. Contact the Musical Arts Center of San Antonio today to learn more about our performance opportunities.

Need a Great Christmas Gift? Consider Private Vocal Instruction

Are you stumped on what to get the music lover in your life this holiday season? Why not invest in their talents, and give them their own private vocal instruction lessons? Vocal lessons are the gift that keeps on giving. Not only does your loved one get to open your gift come Christmas morning—they also get to go to lessons, week after week, for the next few months or even years! For a music lover, this type of gift can be huge.

Why Choose Vocal Lessons This Christmas
With vocal lessons, you’re giving your loved one a gift they will thoroughly enjoy – something they can be passionate and excited about each and every week. You’re also helping them better their talents, and if music’s in their future, this can be a significant game-changer in their lives.

Private vocal instruction is a particularly great gift for loved ones who:

  • Are involved in drama, musicals or the performing arts
  • Aspire to enroll in a music program or college after graduation
  • Intend to enter the music industry or a music-oriented career
  • Are in their school’s band, orchestra or choir
  • Want to start a band or perform in a solo act
  • Love singing but have just never had the right outlet for it
  • Would like to improve their singing skills
  • Need a confidence boost and help improving their performance skills

This Christmas, don’t just buy something off the shelf for your loved one. Consider vocal lessons instead. They offer a heartfelt, creative and personalized gift that every music lover is sure to appreciate dearly.

Ready to Purchase Vocal Lessons for Your Loved One?
If you think your loved one would like private vocal instruction this Christmas, contact the Musical Arts Center of San Antonio today. Our expert vocal teachers can help them hone their skills, improve their talents and explore their musical passions further. Call us today at 210-697-7111 to learn more.

San Antonio Guitar Lessons: What You’ll Learn in the First Few Lessons

Heading to your first San Antonio guitar lessons can be overwhelming – especially if you’ve never picked up the instrument before. You may be wondering if the lessons will be hard, if you’ll be good enough, and what you’ll learn. The questions can seem endless!

Fortunately, we’re here to help. If you’re about to embark on San Antonio guitar lessons for the first time, here’s what you can expect going into your first few sessions:

  1. Parts of the guitar – First, you’ll be walked through all the parts of the guitar: the frets, strings, neck and head. You’ll also learn how to string your guitar, as well as how to take good care of it.
  2. Music theory basics – You’ll get an introduction to reading music, if you don’t already know how to. This may include interpreting time signatures, reading notes, and figuring out rhythm.
  3. Tabs – You’ll discover tabs, a quick and easy way to learn popular songs on the guitar. You’ll use tabbed songs in many lessons to come.
  4. Basic chords – You’ll be exposed to a basic set of chords, most likely G, A, C and D. You may even play a short song or two with them.
  5. Strumming patterns – You’ll begin to use different strumming patterns, and you may strum along with a song or two to get a feel for how they work.
  6. Songs – You may begin to learn some simple, basic songs. These will help you practice the skills you’ve learned and begin to master them.

Your instructor will also likely assign you some homework. This could include learning a song, working your way through a part of your instructional book, or mastering a strumming pattern or scale.

Want to learn more about San Antonio guitar lessons? Contact the Musical Arts Center of San Antonio today. We’ll match you with the perfect instructor for your musical goals.