This website has moved

Posted in Blog on March 4, 2020 by Michelle Monette

You can now find all of my information at michellemonettemusic.com. I will leave this site up, but I will no longer be posting new content or hosting lesson/music information.

Radio Appearance

Posted in Blog, Media on January 24, 2016 by Michelle Monette

On Monday January 18th I had the privilege of appearing on CJAI 92.1 FM Amherst Island Radio for their Udder Morning Show, hosted by Dayle Gowan and Susan Filson. I had a wonderful time talking about music and playing a few of my original tunes. If you are interested in giving my segment a listen, head over to their website to find it archived.

 

General Musicianship: Listening to Music

Posted in Blog, General Musicianship on January 3, 2016 by Michelle Monette

As musicians we are always creating music, practicing music, reading about music… but how much time do we actually spend just listening to music?

Now when I say listening, I mean really listening. Sitting down somewhere quiet, putting on an album, and listening to it from start to finish. So many of us only use music as background listening for when we’re cleaning, or when we’re in our cars, or when we’re exercising. There is certainly nothing wrong with this, as music does help make sometimes tedious tasks feel more enjoyable. But music does deserve to have the spotlight all on its own too.

Listening to music (especially listening to it critically) should be included as a part of our musical development and education. This is especially true when we are trying to learn a new style of playing or a new song. If we only rely on books to learn something new we miss a very important part of the puzzle. After all, music is a listening art.

This kind of listening can serve us really well when we listen to something that we are not familiar with. We can learn a great deal from genres and musicians that we have never heard before, so feel free to move out of your musical comfort zone and listen to something completely different.

This year I have decided to challenge myself by listening to one new album each week for the whole year. Starting from Monday until Sunday each week, I will listen only to the album that I have chosen. I will make it a point to spend time each day just listening. This means that I will sit quietly with headphones on and just listen to the album without any distractions. I plan on keeping a notebook nearby so that I can take notes as I listen through and become more familiar with this new music. I have asked for recommendations from friends and family so that I will be listening to a wide variety of music throughout the year. I am hoping that this experience will help me to grow as a musician, as a songwriter, and as a music lover.

I was inspired to try this after watching a couple of videos (this one and this one) by drummer and teacher Stephen Taylor. Stephen is a really cool guy and he is incredibly inspiring and skilled. I have been watching a lot of his videos over the last month or so and I highly recommend his channel not only to drummers, but to other musicians as well.

So here’s my challenge to you: make it a point to start listening to music more deeply, and try to incorporate new music into your listening catalogue. Putting that kind of singluar focus into something can go a long way in your growth as a musician.

Have a happy new year, everyone!

– Michelle

 

General Musicianship: Rhythm and Timing

Posted in Blog, General Advice with tags , , , on August 23, 2015 by Michelle Monette

One of the keys to being a great musician is having a solid sense of rhythm and timing. Playing the right notes only makes up a small part of the equation when it comes to making music. If those notes aren’t in time then they will sound and feel wrong. For those of you out there who struggle with rhythm and timing, here are some simple solutions.

Use a metronome. I cannot stress the importance of this one enough. Always (and I mean always) practice with a metronome. You can easily purchase one from your local music store or online, and there are plenty of smart phone and tablet apps and online metronome options as well. Use your metronome when practicing or singing scales, when working on your transitions between chords on the guitar or piano, when learning a new song, etc. You can use it for anything you can think of. This will help you develop your internal metronome so that even when you’re playing without a click supporting you, you will always play in time. Using a metronome is also a great way to track your progress with exercises and songs that you are working on. You can keep a list of what you are practicing and make note of the BPM (Beats Per Minute), slowly increasing the tempo as you get better. Remember to always start your metronome at a tempo that is slow and comfortable. You should be striving for accuracy and consistency in what you are playing above all else.

Practice your rhythm and timing away from your instrument. This is one that I make sure to do every day, and the improvement I continue to experience is really outstanding. I use a hollowed out mechanical pencil to tap along with various rhythms (while using a metronome, of course) and begin by counting along until I get to a point where I can simply feel the rhythm. Something as simple as tapping or clapping along with a song that you are listening to can help as well. By focusing your attention only on rhythm, you can really pinpoint weaknesses that you may have and take steps toward correcting them.

Play with other musicians. Learning how to lock in with a band or another musician is a crucial part of your musical development, and the sooner you can incorporate this into your experience the better. This is a scary endeavor for a lot of people, even those who have been singing or playing their instrument for a while, but it is well worth it to go beyond your comfort zone and play with other musicians. You can try attending an open jam session in your town, or try starting or joining a band.

Play along with songs. This suggestion is definitely a no-brainer. Not only is playing along with a song that you are learning a great way to make sure that you have it learned completely, it also helps you to develop your rhythm and timing. In order to follow along, you have to be able to play in time. This can act as a good alternative for people who are still not comfortable enough to play with others.

Give these suggestions a try and please let me know if you have any others that have worked for you.

Summer Lessons

Posted in Blog on July 3, 2015 by Michelle Monette

For your convenience daytime and afternoon lessons are available all throughout the summer! If you are in the Kingston area and are interested in taking music lessons feel free to contact me at michellemonettemusic@gmail.com or visit the lesson info page for more details.

Changes

Posted in Blog on May 13, 2015 by Michelle Monette

Over the next few months there will be some big changes happening on the Michelle Monette Music blog, including a handful of new posts, new lessons and exercises, a new website for my solo musical endeavors, and some changes to the structure of the website. Keep checking back to the news page for up-to-date information on the changes as they happen.

The Benefits of Using a Timer While Practicing

Posted in Blog, Guitar, Tips and Tricks with tags , , , , on May 5, 2014 by Michelle Monette

I am always looking for different ways to make my practice time more effective. Something that I have found helpful over the last couple of years is using a timer during my practice sessions. It’s something that is very simple to do, but has made a huge difference for me. I am going to explain a little bit about how I use a timer so that you’ll all be able to try it out for yourselves.

First, I like to figure out what it is I have to practice. Then, taking into account the amount of time I have to practice, I divide my time so that everything I will be practicing for the day gets a good amount of my attention. Once I go to practice, all I have to do is set my tiImagemer to countdown the amount of time I have allotted to each area of focus, and then I go about my practicing as usual. Once the timer goes off (and after a short break), I switch to the next thing on my list.

Here’s an example: let’s say I have 2 hours to practice and I know I will be practicing some scales, arpeggios, and a couple of pieces or songs. I would start by giving myself 20 minutes to do a warm-up, followed by another 20 minutes for my first piece and 20 minutes for my second piece. At this point I’ve been practicing for an hour, so I would include about 5 minutes just to rest my hands before returning to practice. Scales and arpeggios could each receive 20 minutes, leaving me an extra 15 minutes to review something that may need extra work, or to include something extra at the end (like some improvising practice, or rhythm studies).

Of course this is just an example. I could easily take time from one area and add it to another, or stretch the time out so that the extra 15 minutes isn’t there. I could even further divide my time, perhaps giving specific parts of the pieces a certain amount of time (ie. Piece #1 gets divided into four sections and each of those gets 5 minutes). The possibilities are really endless, which is one of the things I love the most about this method of practicing.

There are a few key benefits of using a timer that I would like to explain.

  • Timing allows for better focus. Being able to focus on what you’re practicing is essential for getting the most out of your practice time. It’s often easy to become distracted when you’re practicing, especially in this technologically driven, multi-tasking age we live in. You might suddenly realize you need to check your e-mail or you may find that you can’t stop watching the clock. Having constant distractions like these can significantly diminish the quality of your practice session. By using a timer, I have found that it is much easier to stay focused on the task at hand and that I am less likely to give in when I find myself realizing that there’s something I need to do. Once I’ve set my timer, I stay put and keep practicing until my time is up. Here’s something that I’ve found helpful: I like to keep a piece of paper nearby to write down things I think of so that I’ll remember them after my practice session is over.
  • You can better organize your time. This benefit ties in with the example I gave above. If you’ve ever find yourself short on practice time, then you know how important it is to budget that time wisely. You want to make sure to fit in the things you need to practice the most. Timers are great for keeping track of exactly how much time you spend practicing something specific. This way, all of the exercises, songs, etc. that you are currently working on get enough of your focused attention.
  • Timing can help prevent injury. It’s not unusual for me to lose track of time when I’m practicing. Two or three hours can go by without me even noticing (on days when I have an unlimited amount of time to practice, anyway). This can cause problems because our hands, wrists and fingers need to rest. Once I started using a timer, I was able to curb this habit. Now the longest I will allow myself to go at one time is an hour. I will set my timer for 60 minutes and once the countdown has ended, I force myself to take a break and rest briefly.

I highly recommend giving the use of a timer a try. Timers are easy to find, as they are often included as a feature on many phones and watches. There are also numerous options online. I personally like to use this online stopwatch: http://www.online-stopwatch.com/.

Until next time!

MM

General Practice Tips

Posted in Blog, Guitar, Tips and Tricks on May 30, 2013 by Michelle Monette

I want to take some time this week to talk about a few general practice tips that should help you out, especially if you’re new to learning guitar. I’ve found all of these helpful in my own practicing as well as with my students.

  • Make sure to practice as soon as possible after a lesson. This will help to make what you’ve learned a little more solid in your mind given that all of the information is still fresh. I set aside time after my own guitar lessons for some thorough practice just so that I’m sure everything I’ve gone over with my teacher is concrete.
  • Keep a binder or folder of everything you are currently working on. Keeping all of your music organized in one place saves you a lot of time when you sit down to practice. It also makes it easier when you have to get your things together for your next lesson.
  • Set up a practice space. Having a designated space for practicing will help you to avoid distractions and focus on the task at hand.
  • Practice slowly. Deliberate practice is what we’re going for. You want to train your fingers to do exactly what you want them to do, and the best way to do that is to really focus on playing things slowly and correctly. I can’t emphasize this enough!
  • Warm up! Make sure to do a slow warm up (this includes stretching!) at the beginning of every practice session. As I mentioned in an earlier post, musicians are prone to many repetitive stress injuries. Warming up and stretching helps to prevent physical problems down the road.
  • Take notes. It helps to write down everything from tempo markings and fingerings to the various ways in which you would like to improve a piece of music. Refer to your notes often to keep yourself on the right track.
  • Practice a variety of things. I like to give myself several different things to practice in a day, including songs/pieces, exercises, theory, etc. This not only helps to keep things interesting, but will also help to make you a well-rounded guitarist.
  • Use a timer. This is a great way to keep track of exactly how long you’re practicing so that you’re not going for too long. Remember that it’s important to take a break of about 15 minutes for every hour of practice. Also, using a timer can help you better manage your time. If you only have an hour to practice and you have 3 or 4 things you want to work on that day, then you can time yourself accordingly so that everything gets enough attention.

That’s all for now! I’ll be back soon with more tips, tricks and lessons! Also, feel free to let me know if any of you have practice tips that you have found helpful and would like to share!

MM

Tips for Playing Basic Chords

Posted in Blog, Guitar, Lessons on February 21, 2013 by Michelle Monette

One of the most prevalent problems that beginning guitarists have is with playing basic chords well. Often certain notes in the chord they’re playing will sound muted and dull, and they will experience difficulty when transitioning between different chords.

I’ve come up with some simple strategies that have helped my students play basic chords clearly and with ease.

  • Keep your fingers flush behind the frets.  Having your finger tips positioned right behind the frets will give you the clearest sound possible. This is often tricky for people who are just starting out, but keep at it. Your fingers will learn where they need to go with enough practice.
  • Keep your fingers positioned so that they don’t mute any of the adjacent strings. Often when a string sounds muffled, a finger fretting another string may be inadvertently muting it. Try to shift the fretted finger around until the muted string rings clearly.
  • Work on fretting one note at a time. It’s often helpful, especially when working with some of the trickier chords (the F chord can be a tough one!), to work on one note of the chord at a time.  Focus on getting the first note to ring clearly. Once you’ve got it sounding the way you want it, then you can add the next finger and focus on that one, and so on. Breaking down chords this way can help you identify any issues you may be having (such as the muting of adjacent strings or not having your finger placed properly behind the fret).
  • When changing between two chords look for notes shared between them. If you are switching between two chords, it helps to look for notes that are shared between them so that you can avoid having to move all of your fingers for the chord change.
    ImageFor example, if you’re moving from a C to an Am, you can keep your first finger down on the 1st fret of the 2nd string (C) and your second finger down on the 2nd fret of the 4th string (E), so that the only finger you have to move is your third from the 3rd fret of the 5th string (C) to the 2nd fret of the 3rd string (A).

Try these strategies out for yourself with a variety of basic chords. If you’re only starting to learn to play chords then first try ones that only require the fretting of two notes (such as Em or A7) . Once those feel comfortable, then you can try some of the chords with three or four fretted notes.

I hope you find these tips helpful. Remember that it’s important to master the basics. That way you’ll have a solid foundation of good technique for when you begin working on things that are more advanced.

MM

Alla Grande!

Posted in Blog on February 16, 2013 by Michelle Monette

Hey everyone!

So it’s Guitar Alla Grande weekend which means there will be plenty of guitar performances, lectures and masterclasses over the next couple of days. If you’re in the Ottawa area and are interested in finding out more, head on over to the official Alla Grande website http://guitarallagrande.org/

I will be performing as part of the guitar orchestra on Sunday at the Aviation Museum. It’s sure to be a great show, so come on out if you can!

Also, check out my gigs/performances page for up-to-date info on where I will be performing.

MM