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Freeway Music — Columbia, SC’s Premier Music School

The New Year’s Song:

“Auld Lang Syne” Written by Robert Burns

“Auld Lang Syne” is the iconic tune likely to be the first song most of the world sings every year at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. Robert Burns’s poem “Auld Lang Syne” is a version of an old Scottish song and now possibly one of the most famous songs in the world. The seemingly global feelings experienced at year’s end, like community, friendship and even a general good will, are certainly felt in the melody and lyrics of “Auld Lang Syne.”

In Scotland, New Year’s Eve is called “Hogmanay.” It has its own rich and revered traditions, not least amongst them are singing “Auld Lang Syne.”  And Hogmanay has another tradition called “first footing,” which is that the first person entering a home after midnight, and not usually having also been there during the evening celebration, is meant to bring good luck for the year. The person who is the “first footing,” or first guest of the new year, also may bring traditional symbols of good fortune—a fruit cake, a “dram of whiskey,” some shortbread, or a lump of coal symbolizing warmth. In Scotland, and many parts of the world, January 1st is in the dead of winter. Giving gifts of these sorts to friends as their first visitor of the new year is meant to bring them luck and a prosperous year to come.

Robert Burns was born on January 25th, 1759. Recognized as The Scottish National Bard, to this day, he is still celebrated, not only by singing “Auld Lang Syne” at midnight on New Year’s Eve, but on his for the traditional Burns Supper. Starting in the early 19th century, the bard has been toasted and honored around the world with a Burns Supper every January 25th. Burns’s birthday is possibly celebrated more fervently than even the national day in Scotland. Burns was born into a family of farmers in Scotland and sometimes called the Ploughman Poet. A poet and lyricist, Burns used the rich material of Scotland’s folk music and stories as inspiration for much of his work.

Below are the traditional words, penned by Robert Burns, to “Auld Lang Syne.” You can find various translations that have changed the words, but there is something in the traditional language which can be lost in translations.

“Auld Lang Syne” – Robert Burns (Traditional Scots verse)

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And auld lang syne!

For auld lang syne, my jo,

For auld lang syne,

We’ll tak a cup o’kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint stowp!

And surely I’ll be mine!

And we’ll take a cup o’kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.

For auld &c.

We twa hae run about the braes,

And pou’d the gowans fine;

But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,

Sin’ auld lang syne.

For auld &c.

We twa had paidl’d in the burn,

Frae morning sun till dine;

But seas between us braid hae roar’d

Sin’ auld lang syne.

For auld &c.

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!

And gie’s a hand o’thine!

And we’ll tak a right gude-willie-waught,

For auld lang syne.

For auld &c.

Above is the Scots version of the song, and much of it is better left as is, but to understand the sentiment let’s look at the translation more closely. The English translation is below. The words to “Auld Lang Syne” speak to remembrance, and deep appreciation for our friendships, and old acquaintances. The song almost insists you look closely at those with whom you spend your life. It implores you to pause and reflect on the warm gratitude you might feel towards your friends, having travelled another year together.

“Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And never brought to mind,

Should auld acquaintance be forgot

And days of auld lang syne?”

The middle verse is one worth considering as it relates to happy memories, and their potential loss. This verse, retelling from childhood memories of “paddling” in streams and “running about the hills” tell of how their days were once side by side their long ago friends. So, the eventual “seas between us broad have roared” show the singer and those they once were close with, have parted ways. This verse shows the potential for loss starkly brought to light even while remembering and honoring current friends. I will add the English translation here:

“We two have run about the hills

And picked the daisies fine;

But we’ve wandered many a weary foot

Since auld lang syne.

We two have paddled in the stream,

From morning sun till dine;

But seas between us broad have roared

Since auld lang syne.”

Because of its relevance now and for future New Year’s though, I wanted to share a much lesser known piece by Burns. He wrote to his “first friend,” Mrs. Frances Anna Dunlop on New Year’s Day in 1789. Just as we might now text or call our closest friends a Happy New Year! Burns wrote many letters to Frances Dunlop, more than anyone. In these lines, Burns reflects on the year before and the transient nature of life. There is always the question of what tomorrow might bring, and also hope that all of our plans will succeed in the coming year. Looking forward and back on the night before and on first day of January in the new year we make resolutions about our future.

 From Sketch. New Year’s Day. To Mrs. Dunlop- By Robert Burns

First, what did yesternight deliver?

“Another year is gone for ever.”

And what is this day’s strong suggestion?

“The passing moment’s all we rest on!”

Rest on—for what? what do we here?

Or why regard the passing year?

Will time, amus’d with proverb’d lore,

Add to our date one minute more?

A few days may—a few years must—

Repose us in the silent dust.

Then is it wise to damp our bliss?

Yes—all such reasonings are amiss!

The voice of nature loudly cries,

And many a message from the skies,

That something in us never dies:

That on his frail, uncertain state,

Hang Matters of eternal weight:

That future life in worlds unknown

Must take its hue from this alone;

Whether as heavenly glory bright,

Or dark as misery’s woeful night.—

Since then, my honor’d, first of friends,

On this poor being all depends;

Let us th’important now employ,

And live as those who never die.

Tho’you, with days and honors crown’d,

Witness that final circle round,

(A sight life’s sorrows to repulse,

A sight pale envy to convulse)

Others now claim your chief regard;

Yourself, you wait you bright reward.

In both “Auld Lang Syne” and the verse that he sent to his friend on New Year’s Day, Burns seems to emphasize the importance of friendship, time, and seasonal holidays. He ponders the inevitable procession of time, and the loss of “days gone by” and those who traveled with us before. “Auld Lang Syne” invites you to stand on the edge of the past and the coming year with gratitude for friends, and hope for the future. However you may celebrate the calendar’s turning, I wish you all a Happy New Year!

By Elvin Boone

What’s Better Than Motivation?

You just finished your first big show, showcase, private event etc., and it was a roaring success. Everyone has stopped you and told you how amazing you were. Some folks have even been specific, “when you played that solo…” and the show afterglow is all around you. Then you get home, and the next day feel the same. But the feelings of all that adoration fades, slowly perhaps, but still it goes away. Is it always the next big thing that you’re reaching for? Yes, probably. That’s part of the daily chase to become more, achieve more, reach your highest artistic potential. You might experience a piece of the happiness, musical actualization, and personal fulfillment in reaching a goal, but it’s really in the daily process of achievement that you will find perpetual satisfaction and joy.

How do you keep up the daily practice that’s required to reach the next musical milestone or pinnacle? How do you foster the type of motivation that you need to reach those lofty goals? It’s not the final goal that is going to keep you practicing every day. It’s not the huge wins that make you pick up the instrument, or sing obsessively. It’s seeing your own progress every single day and enjoying the work of becoming better and better. Success, especially small daily wins, in any area of life, is how sustainable motivation is created. Accomplish one thing today and you are happy about today and that motivates you to accomplish more tomorrow.

Enjoy the small victories. Did you learn that riff or that trill or that fill that you’ve been working on for three days? Celebrate. Did you figure out how to play triplets in one measure of that piece that yesterday still seemed too fast for you? Celebrate. And on and on you’ll go with a certainty that you’ll be able to appreciate your own process and reach those huge goals.

Break yourself of the putting off  celebrating progress until “someday”. You might think that it’s okay to constantly think that “someday” you’ll be/do/have, but it’s not going to help you get there. Yes, it’s extremely important to have big dreams, and to stretch yourself beyond limiting beliefs, but you shouldn’t focus on the gap between where you are and want to be.

That’s one of the major reasons people fail. They spend all of their time comparing themselves to others’ success instead of figuring out their own path to personal achievement. How many times have you heard one of your musical inspirations play and instead of thinking, “What did they practice every day to become that amazing?” you thought, “I’ll never be able to…” The truth is that everyone is able to accomplish a lot more than they think, but it takes a different approach to daily practice and motivation.

The Competition Trap

If you’re like many people, then you are constantly comparing yourself to other musicians. This can potentially become the opposite of motivation. It doesn’t have to be that way though; you could compare your progress with where you were musically yesterday. You could become better than you were yesterday, and one day you may look back and realize that you’re nearly as good (or better) than your favorite artists.

Try it for a week. Write down where you are every day and then tomorrow write down how you’ve improved. In a week you’ll see your daily improvements and be able to see how practice is paying off. Also, while competing with yourself everyday instead of people who’ve already been playing for 30 years, you’ll remove that crippling fear of “never being good enough”.

Shift Your Focus

You have to imagine the big goal, “forget the goal” and focus only on the process. Here’s another way to consider this idea—did you get to work/school/the game on time this week? Why? The answer is simple—you have a routine. You’ve created a routine where you get up at certain time and get to where you need to be at a certain time. This can be applied to reaching your musical goals as well, but will mean that you create a way to hold yourself accountable.

You don’t wake up every morning and think, “I have to get to work or school on time or….”, no, you just do it. You don’t think about the goal of what a high school or college degree will mean for you when you go to class every day. You just go to class, and focus on one day, one assignment, one paper, one reading, at a time. It’s the same with sports. You might imagine winning the game this Saturday, but Monday through Friday you’re out there doing the work and getting to practice on time. This is also true of becoming the best musician possible.

Back to focus and how it can possibly derail your progress. If you want to save $10,000 (or a million) and you start by setting aside $10.40 every week, you’ll start feeling pretty defeated immediately because you’ll constantly compare the goal with where you are right now. When you’re thinking about finishing a degree, and you only have two classes out of 200, you may think you’ll never finish. These might seem like trivial examples, but they’re not. These are just two examples of countless goals people never reach because of the comparison trap.

Don’t allow the comparison of where you are, and where you want to be to demoralize you. Stop measuring the distance between your present and your future. Instead, create the big goal, figure out the daily practices you need to do to accomplish the huge goal, forget the big goal for now.

Goals and Processes

Simply put, a goal is the end result, and a process is the daily action that moves you towards that goal. Daily routines are the path to success. Goals are the, well, the GOAL, but to get there you have to forget the big picture and hone your skill, your craft, your voice. You may also hear people talk about SMART goals, which means Specific, Meaningful, Attainable, Realistic and Time bound. While this structure might be excellent for businesses, it’s not necessarily going to help you achieve your big dreams. I add this here because it’s something that may get in the way of true progress. Your goals really shouldn’t be explained in some group of letters describing words that will most likely bog you down in wondering if learning to play Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D Major is “meaningful”.

First, you allow your goal of playing lead violin to create your process. Next, you prevent decision anxiety by following a daily routine. Maybe you get up 15 minutes earlier and practice every morning, or 30 minutes before dinner every night. It doesn’t have to be grueling; you’re just trying to create a routine to create a habit. If that routine isn’t working, then adjust it, instead of 15 minutes, get up 45 minutes earlier in the morning and go to bed earlier at night. You’ll know when the best time for you to practice and make progress.

This is similar to that of triathlon training. You start with two miles this week, then 2.5 next week and so forth. Incremental progress will yield the greatest results in the long run. You may need to change your routine to accommodate the new practice schedule, re-evaluate your daily plans to make doing the work every day as natural as possible.

You may consider breaking your day down into 30 minute blocks to plan your practice, and learn. Here, I would caution you to make sure to plan for down time, and time to really rest and recover. Try each routine for at least a week, and then change it according to your best results. This might be one of the most important parts of achieving your goal. Creating a solid routine that you can follow throughout the year is essential to sustainable growth.

In Summary

In Summary

  1. Imagine your large vision or dream
  2. Form your goal
  3. Make yourself accountable to attaining the goal
  4. Construct a daily process to reach your goal
  5. Practice your process every day while forgetting the large goal

Your dreams, big or small, are the some of the greatest things that you can strive towards—you can find a way to reach them if you make progress every single day on what matters most.

October marks the 10 year anniversary for Freeway Music School—an incredible milestone and achievement. Freeway opened in 2011 and since then hasn’t stopped growing while still maintaining its core values, one of them being to help students reach their musical goals. “Freeway Music goes beyond your traditional music school,” says Don Russo, Freeway Music’s co-founder and chief operating officer. “We are a hub for building deep relationships between teachers, students and the community-while staying focused on being innovative and adapting to the world around us.”

From the start, Freeway Music has encouraged instructors and students to cultivate their musical talent, and also to showcase it in the studio as well as on stage. The combination of dynamic teaching, and the dedication of each instructor to their students’ progress creates a rich learning environment. Now that there are six locations in and around Columbia, this level of student focused instruction is available for many throughout South Carolina’s Midlands, and beyond. “Adapting to virtual lessons and other programming has opened many doors for our students and teachers,” says Tony Lee, Freeway Music’s co-founder. “It’s allowed us to expand our way of teaching, as well as introduce new technology that gives us the capacity to teach anywhere in the world.”

Both Tony Lee and Don Russo are committed to helping students, of any age (there are students in their upper 80’s taking lessons) achieve their musical goals. And you can see that same drive mirrored in the instructors there as well. In the past 10 years, Freeway Music instructors have taught upwards of 10,000 students nearly half a million lessons. Take these examples for instance,  Neoni –the alternative pop rock band with over a million monthly listeners on Spotify, or Jonathan Wyndham, who performed on The Voice in 2014 and is now an independent vocal artist. From their first lessons at Freeway Music, to now, the level of their success is exemplary. Sydney and Caitlin Powell, the sisters who together form Neoni, say of Freeway, “We could not be more proud to be Freeway Music alumni and to think it all began ten years ago in a lesson room to music becoming our entire career is truly amazing.” But, as praiseworthy as those accomplishments are, the other side, the one we don’t hear about that often, is as equally notable—throughout the years, Freeway has raised and donated more than $60,000 to local nonprofits, and also volunteered countless hours to the community. You’ll hear the phrase, “Freeway family” a lot around the studios. Family and community are both words that are often associated with the school’s fundamental values. “Supporting our community is part of who we are—it’s embedded in the fabric of our DNA,” says Russo. “We’ve seen music transcend barrier, transform lives and unify people of all walks of life.”

Other ways that Freeway Music has expanded their outreach to help the community are:

  • Co-partnership of the Freeway Music Festival—uniting local and regional musicians
  • Music scholarships to support youth who may not be able to afford music lessons
  • Participation in local fundraising and performances for nonprofits such as: Palmetto Children’s Hospital, Harvest Hope Food Bank, The Conner Foundation, The Woman’s Shelter, Pawmetto Lifeline, Trustus Theatre, Girls Rock Columbia, and many others
  • Supporting local schools with free lessons and performances including the following: Columbia College, Irmo High School, Bethel-Hanberry Elementary, St. John Newman, Heathwood Hall, Blythewood High School, St. Andrews Middle School
  • Helping with local events: The Festival of Trees, Rooftop Rhythms, St. Pat’s in Five Points Parade, Palmetto Christmas, the MG&C Long Run, the Heart and Sole Run, Get in the Pink Race, Vista Lights, First Thursdays on Main

Freeway Music is More than Just a Music School, that much is clear. Whether it’s through community outreach, supporting nonprofits, or helping anyone who aspires to become a musician achieve their dream, Freeway is in many ways an incredible “family”. The same level of enthusiasm and creative drive that instructors have in the studio classroom is also put into every (recital) student showcase. At the end of the day, it has always been about developing talent, and sometimes helping students find talent they never knew they had. All of the student showcases in October 2021 will celebrate, not only the amazing student performances, but also this milestone anniversary of 10 years of Freeway Music School.

Check out all the events for dates and venues: https://freewaymusic.net/events/ . These showcases are crucial to students’ development, honing and showing off their skills in “real life” settings and are essentially live music concerts.

To learn more about Freeway Music and register for classes with year-round enrollment at https://freewaymusic.net/.

About Freeway Music

Founded in 2011, Freeway Music in the Columbia, S.C., region’s premier music school with five locations in downtown Columbia, Lexington, Irmo, the Northeast, and within Sims Music. Freeway music offers lessons for all skill levels, styles, and ages on a wide range of instruments, including piano, voice, guitar, ukulele, drums, bass, strings, woodwinds, horns, mandolin, banjo, and more. Freeway Music’s mission is to equip students in music and life to make a positive impact in their community. Freeway Music is the exclusive music school partner of Sims Music, a locally owned and nationally recognized music store. For more information visit https://freewaymusic.net/ or call 844.537.7661.

Instagram: www.instagram.com/freewaymusicsc/

Twitter: twitter.com/FreewayMusicSC

Facebook: www.facebook.com/freewaymusic

By Elvin Boone

Talent vs Work-The Fixed and Growth Mindsets

When you only compliment talent and intelligence, you may end up undermining motivation, and eventually performance. In musical achievement there’s a profound difference in whether you skate by on your ‘talent’ or excel to heights you never imagined through grit and hard work. This is a short post about two of the most common mindsets: fixed and growth mindset. After this short discussion you might consider changing from a limiting fixed mindset to one of continual growth and learning.

The Fixed Mindset – Like a Stone

Basically, a fixed mindset is when you believe that you are born with a certain amount of talent in any field and that it never changes. No matter how hard you work you’ll never be good enough because you weren’t already talented enough from the start. This mindset focusses on being smart or talented not cultivating learning and skill.

Doesn’t everyone seem to enjoy being called talented and smart? Yes, absolutely. If you play poorly, or can’t learn a phrase quickly after being told you’re talented you may believe you aren’t really that talented after all. Your confidence might deflate because of one small failure. Success means that you are always the smartest or best but messing up means, well, maybe you’re not really talented—maybe you’ll never be good enough. You always want your students, family and friends to know how much you appreciate and celebrate their successes. It’s when the praise is only for the successful result and the effort to reach it is forgotten, that there is a risk of creating a fixed mindset. One thing is certain with fixed and growth mindsets—you use both on a daily basis for all types of decisions. It’s rare that someone uses only one of the mindsets.

The Growth Mindset – Continual Expansion

If you have a Growth Mindset, you believe that you can succeed through personal effort, dedication, and motivation. You believe that your potential is yet to be charted, and that no one can know how much you might accomplish. People with a Growth mindset do not blindly believe they are the next Bach or Tesla, but to them there’s also no denying any possibility. You believe in a continual expansion and refinement of your skills and abilities.

Changing the meaning of failure is one of the main differences between fixed and growth mindsets. If you use a growth mindset you see a failure as a set back and not the crippling feeling that you’ll never be good enough. Instead of caving in, you step back and assess what went wrong and strive to succeed again. That old saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” has the growth mindset at its core. Also, sayings like, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step” a Chinese proverb attributed to Lao Tzu, mean that all great work is completed with one step at a time. It’s one thing to give you a catchy saying and call it a day, but these words of wisdom are not going to help anyone truly reach their potential. It takes an active participation in changing your own mindset towards growth, despite having some limiting beliefs.

Both mindsets operate within you and influence every decision and reaction you make. While you may be stronger with growth mindsets internally, you might not actually engender the same in others. Complimenting success and talent versus hard work can lead to creating the framework for a fixed mindset in someone. Imagine yourself in front of your instructor. You played the first part of the song you’re learning perfectly last week. This week you’re learning a technique you’ve never tried before. You can’t do it. You freeze. You hear the instructor try to explain the technique, and although they are being patient, you are having a very different experience of the situation. With the fixed mindset you might be thinking, “I thought I was talented so this should be simple”, your muscles rebel, you start to sweat, your confidence wavers.

Now picture the above scenario again. This time imagine that you find the new technique or music difficult. But this time you pause, realize that you’re here to learn, and that it’s okay being a novice. Your instructor’s patience isn’t because they don’t believe in your ability, but helpful and exactly what you need to progress—one slow and sure step at a time to reach your goals.

Reclaiming Possibility

A striking example of a musician with a growth mindset is Django Reinhardt. After a tragic accident, the ring and little finger on his left hand were burned so badly that he was unable to use them to fret the guitar anymore. This was before much of his success and innovation playing jazz. The doctors told him that he’d never play guitar again. Consider this situation for someone who was not in Django’s situation. What if your doctor told you that you would never be good enough because you weren’t good enough right now? Having, in my opinion, a strong growth mindset, Django re-learned guitar using only his first and index fingers to fret. If he’d given up because of a fixed mindset, and thought “I can’t play guitar with only two fingers” then we’d never hear tunes like “Nuages” or “Minor Swing” or his vibrant jazz style. There are countless stories of individuals who have triumphed over what seem like impossible situations, and most of them appear to succeed because of embodying a growth mindset. You’ve heard the phrase, “where there’s a Will there’s a way”, I believe that it’s more than just a strong Will that enables great achievement—the right mindset is essential.

Some of the most gratifying moments for music instructors, students or parents is in witnessing positive change and the accomplishment of musical goals. You probably live for that moment when, after months of working on a piece of music, you finally play it with such precision and skill that you know your hard work has paid off. You may also dread those times when after you feel so accomplished a challenge presents itself and you question your own ability. These are the times when the difference between the growth and fixed mindset will make or break your progress. Changing from a fixed mindset to one of growth may not be easy, but as with a lot of things, easy doesn’t always equal worthwhile.

Your mindset will frame your interpretation of events in your life. With a growth mindset, your setbacks will become temporary challenges that you intend to overcome. With a fixed mindset, any setback becomes the final judgment of your ability or talent, and may convince you to give up. Some ways to start changing to a growth mindset are as simple as asking different questions: Can I learn something from this? What can I do to improve my technique? Is there a way to slow this fast part down so I can play each note perfectly? How can I improve? The process may take some time, and you may notice that you start treating any “mistake” as an opportunity instead of a final judgement on your intelligence, ability, or talent. Remember this, criticism and praise do not represent who you are and what you’re actually capable of doing, and being. Compliments and judgements are observations of your current work or performance, not of the possible accomplishments you can achieve with a growth mindset.

If you are interested in joining our theater class, email mari@freewaymusic.net

Are you looking for a reliable social and educational outlet for your little ones? Join Dawn Eargle in person with your babies, toddlers, and preschoolers to learn delightful songs, dances, and musical activities.

  • When: April (30-40 classes, once per week)
  • Where: Outside in Doko Park (Blythewood)
  • Price: $15/class (paid monthly)
  • Why? …because it’ll be so much fun!

If you’re interested in a fun outside activity that is also educational, please email nick@freewaymusic.net or call 803-865-1151.

More information on Dawn Eargle and the class…

Dawn Eargle is a graduate of the University of South Carolina with a degree in Music Education. She is an enthusiastic teacher with 20 years of experience in preschool music. Dawn creates an innovative curriculum with students’ development in mind. Her students will learn the joy, excitement, and love of playing music.

Learn songs that focus on keeping a steady beat to enhance timing, coordination, listening, and language skills. Activities include instruments, puppets, stories, and colorful props such as mini trampolines, balls, parachutes, beanbags, scarves, and bubbles. The program enhances participation, language development, memory, and coordination. Preschoolers learn to express their creativity, develop their imagination, and the ability to focus, all through playing through music. Come out and play!

Electric Guitar

There are many brands you can start off with for electric guitars, and they are all similar in quality at the entry-level; however, three brands have stood the test of time, and you can’t really go wrong with any of these three brands: Fender, Gibson, and Ibanez. Like anything, you will have a good, better, and best option. For electrics, it comes down to where the instrument was made, hands-on craftsmanship, the quality of the wood, and pickups. There are definitely many other options, but these are the prominent features that affect the price. Here is a breakdown of which guitars I would get per level:

Entry Level ($150-400)

  1. Fender Squire Strat
  2. Gibson Epiphone
  3. Ibanez GRX70QA series

Mid Level ($400-800)

  1. Fender Player Series
  2. PRS SE Standard or Custom
  3. Epiphone Les Paul Standard

Pro Level ($800+)

  1. Fender American Vintera or Pro II Series
  2. Silver Sky PRS
  3. Gibson Les Paul

Now, after you get your electric guitar, one of the next things you’ll be asking yourself is “what kind of amp do I need?” I can tell you, hands down, the Fender Mustang series is the PERFECT practice amp. It’s literally all you need…so much so, that it is the official practice amp of the Freeway Music locations. One of the best ways to ensure that you get all you need is to purchase a package. So, let’s get that out of the way and talk about it. Here are some packages our friends have at Sims:

Acoustic Guitar

The good, better, best for acoustics is generally found in how much solid vs. laminate wood is involved. Entry level guitars tend to have a laminate top and back and sides. Mid-level acoustics have solid tops. The reason they do the top is because that’s where most of your sound resonates. So, if you have a solid top, it makes a difference. Pro-level guitars are generally solid all the way around with solid tops, sides, and backs. For the most part, you’ll run into the usual suspects for guitars. Here are some recommendations for various guitars at each level:

Entry Level ($150-400)

  1. Fender FA-15 (3/4 size guitar great for a smaller student)
  2. Fender (pretty much any)
  3. Ibanez (pretty much any)

Midlevel ($400-800)

Normally, I’d tout Martin and Taylor pretty hard in this range…especially the Taylor GS mini as it’s literally the perfect 3/4 guitar, but they are low in stock. So, I’d check out the Ibanez Artwood Series. They are great mid-level guitars.

Pro level

Can’t go wrong with Martin, Taylor, Gibson. They are king.

Ukulele

Ukes make for AMAZING holiday gifts because they are portable, easy to learn and play, and very affordable. Ukes tend to range between $50—$300, but float around that $50-150 mark for decent ones. Here are some brands to check out:

  1. Kala
  2. Cordoba
  3. Ortega *This is a newer brand that Sims recently started carrying. They look, sound, and play amazing. I just bought one for Sara Ann for Christmas. Don’t tell her ;)…She’s not reading this is she? :/

Keyboards/Pianos

So, if you’re looking for a serious acoustic piano, check out our friends at Rice Music House. They’ve got a great selection of acoustic pianos and will be of great help to you. The acoustic pianos at Freeway Music are from Rice. You can buy or rent. 

If you are in the market for a Digital Piano, I like the Casio and Yamaha brands. You can’t go wrong either way. We stock the Casios at Freeway for our voice lessons. 

There are also a slew of portable keyboard options available.

Percussion/Drums

Okay, I JUST started playing drums…so, give me a little grace in this department. It’s okay, I spoke with Justin at Sims, and he is an expert…so we will be alright! Here are some opinions of ours:

Entry Level

Ludwig Accent: Drive(full size for 12+) and Fuse (smaller for a younger kid 8-11)

Intermediate 

Tama Imperial Star

Pro

PDP, DW, Ludwig, Pearl, and Tama are all gonna have solid options. You might want to consider some nicer cymbals at this point from brands like Zildjian and Sabian.

**Side Note: The cajon has been a popular instrument for drummers as of late for acoustic sets. Check out the LP Americana cajon… it was designed by our very own Justin Sims! 🙂

Recording 

So, you wanna ease into recording. The best way to get started is by grabbing one of the Scarlet Focusrite Packages They have two different ones. Both come with a mic, mic cable, headphones, and an intro version of Protools. The only difference is one is solo and has one channel ($219), and the other is a duo with two channels ($269). 

Stocking Stuffers

There are a ton of accessories such as capos, tuners, string winders, polish, cables, slides, pedals, shakers, tambourines, sticks, picks, and most importantly…Music Lessons! 😉

Whew…That was a lot of information. I hope this was helpful and Happy Holidays from the Freeway Family! 🙂

We are constantly trying to improve our experience at Freeway Music. Anytune Pro has been an amazing tool for our instructors and students in private lessons. Here are some of our favorite features.

  1. Changing Tempo: AnyTune Pro allows you to input a song from your music library and slow it down or speed it up by increments of 1%. This is an amazing feature when a song’s tempo is too challenging. Students can measure their progress by gradually increasing the tempo 5% at a time.
  2. Changing Pitch: Once a song is imported, you can alter the pitch. You can click up or down on the # or flat button if you want to move by 1/2 steps, or you can go to as small as .01 movements as you dial in the perfect pitch for the song with which you are working. This is helpful a few ways. One, you can change a song that is pitched down (such as a guitar being tuned down 1/2 step) to make it easier to learn without retuning the instrument. Secondly, you can change the key of a song to fit a singer. Lastly, you can dial in a song that is slightly out of pitch. Some songs are a 1/4 step or even less out of tune due to capos and tape speeds, etc. **Once a song is altered by pitch or tempo, it can be exported that way for a student**
  3. Time Stamps: As you are going through the song, you can stamp each section with markers. You can use either section markers such as intro, verse, chorus, bridge, etc. Or, you can use number markers. That way the teacher and student can easily navigate through the song and reference points in the song that need practice. For example, the teacher can say, “practice Verse 2 at x tempo” or “work on marker 2.”
  4. Looping: You can select a beginning point “A” and an end point “B” to create a loop section. This way you can easily work on a part of a song or solo over and over again. The speed features come in very handy while using the looper. The placement of the points is super easy with the “A” and “B” buttons.
  5. Reframing: This is perhaps my favorite feature of Anytune Pro. You can draw a square or rectangle directly on to the sound spectrum to isolate a specific sound such as guitar left, bass guitar, voice, or a kick drum, etc. This is such an amazing tool if you are having a hard time hearing notes because all of the other instruments are getting in the way. You can also invert it to cancel out the instrument so that your student can play along with the track, effectively creating an accompanying track.
  6. Practice Tool: So, I mentioned earlier that you can change keys and tempos. Well, you can also set this to occur on each repeat such that the key or tempo changes each time. This is perfect if you want to work on slowly speeding up a lick each time through, or if you are trying to work on being able to play something in various keys, showing that you truly have it down regardless of the key.

These are just some of the features I love about Anytune Pro. There are definitely others, but these are the core uses for me. If you want to exercise your ears, work on transcribing, or need help transposing, this software is clutch. Make sure to check it out and thank me later! 🙂

I still remember the night it happened. I was at Sakitumi, a local sushi restaurant in Columbia, SC. I’d come out to watch a jazz trio play and decided I would sit in and attempt the song “Donna Lee” by Charlie Parker. I had been practicing the song on my own for months, learning the melody, mastering the chords, and working the arpeggios to be able to solo over the changes. The group consisted of a bassist, a drummer, and a keyboard player. In between a couple of numbers, I approached the bass player and asked if I could sit in and play “Donna Lee,” to which he said, “sure,” as is the tradition in the jazz community. So, I watched a couple of tunes and then he called my name. I grabbed my guitar, plugged into my amp, and what happened next changed my life forever…

The bassist turned to me with a fierce look in his eyes and counted, “one, two, ah one-two-three-four, and we were off to the races…at BLAZING SPEED! Yikes! I had never played this song anywhere near this speed. My hands were sweaty, my muscles in my arms tight, as I barely hung on to a semblance of the melody. All the while, the bassist was glaring at me with a look, as though he was testing me with his eyes. Once through the head of the song, he says, “go ahead,” cueing me to take a solo. So, I begin the solo. The changes are flying past like cars on the interstate, and then it happened. I was completely lost. I had NO idea where I was in the song. The bass player then steps up to me and begins barking changes in my ear. I still can’t keep up. The last half of my solo began to dismantle until I finally stopped in the middle of it. The bassist, seemingly unhappy, began to take his solo effortlessly over the changes as I stood there. Then, he walked up to me and said, “Back to the top.” I couldn’t find where I was, so HE began to play the melody (an extremely difficult melody) on the bass. Then, I jumped back in and started playing with him. We wrapped the song, I packed up, and I walked away with my pride hurt a bit.

Now, I know, a lot of you right probably think that sounds horrible, like your worst nightmare. I get it. It does sound painful; however, it was probably one of the best learning experiences that I have ever had. I learned several things that day.

  1. Practice Songs in Different Ways – Two people will play a song different from one another. I had been practicing the song on my own, my way, at the same tempo. I learned that if I practice songs in different tempos, keys, and styles that I actually learn the song more completely and it prepares me for almost any situation.
  2. Listening is Key – When I was lost, I tried to think my way out and figure out where I was. I discovered, after a few of these failures, that I just need to take a deep breath, close my eyes, listen, and react. Music is about what you hear, not what you know. Once I discovered that. I could start playing notes that sounded good to me, regardless of the key changes. I could also find my place in the song WAY quicker.
  3. I Will Fail, and I Must Try Again – As I mentioned before, I had several instances where I failed. I could have easily have thrown in the towel, called the bassist a jerk, or conceded to doing something easier. I instead churned those emotions into positive energy which made me practice and try again, getting better each attempt, to the point where I could feel relaxed in those situations.
  4. Jump Into the Fire – To say I was nervous that night would be an understatement. I tended to, and I watched my students, procrastinate and not get out there and just play. In my experience, no one is ever 100% “ready” to do something challenging. Set a goal. It can be an open mic, open jam, showcase, recital, recording date, video, social media post, whatever. Just set a goal and do it. You WILL have failures, you WILL have successes, you WILL grow if you just jump into the fire.

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