NOVA Notes

Choosing the Right Method Book for a Piano Student (Introduction)

By Minette

For a new piano teacher, the numerous piano method books available today can be overwhelming. New teachers often choose a piano method based on a fellow teacher’s recommendation or use the books they learned about.  And for a new teacher, this may be the best option.  A teacher should be confident and not distracted by the material.

I hope though, that new teachers explore some of the other options that are available.  Every piano book series has its own merits and values. There may be a better match for the student.  And a better match for the teacher as well.  The many different method books available offer an opportunity to match the teaching style to the student’s needs in very productive ways.

When choosing a method for a student, you might consider age, interest and goal.  Age and interest are fairly easy.  How old are you and what kinds of music do you like?  The answer can quickly narrow the field.  Their “goal” can be a little trickier as it is a balance of a student’s goal, a parent’s goal and a realistic expectation.  As you know, goals are not always based on the amount of time parent and students are willing to put into the learning process.  But that is the subject of another series.

Over this series of posts, we will be exploring a bit on the many types of method books out there.  Hopefully, it will offer some insight on what to try next.


How to Tune Your Guitar Quick and Easy

Tune it or die! You can find this message two guitar players written on T-shirts, mugs and bumper stickers. As a guitar player bangs and bends their strings, it will eventually go out of tune. Sometimes you go out at home, in practice or on stage. Every guitar player has been there. So turn on that handy electric tuner, clip it to your guitar, tune it and tune often. Your band mates and your audience will love you for it.

But sometimes your tuner does not work, you forgot it back stage or that roadie left it in your car? It can be nightmare while they wait for you to just start playing. The truth is that the guitar should be perfectly tuned every time you play. And it is crucial for you to know how to do it. (Unless you have your own guitar tech to hand you a fresh guitar every time you go out of tune.)

If you have a smartphone, there is an app for that. In fact, there are dozens of apps that you can use. Yes, it is less lame to fumble with your phone on stage, but not in tune is a worse sin. “Now everyone be quiet, I have to tune.” If we had the clip on tuner it would pick up the vibrations and you all could talk, but the phone is going to pick up the sound from the mic.

In case you didn’t bring your phone on stage you are going to have to do this like your grandfather did – by listening.

So grab your ear and get a reference tone. Any other player that can get you a good reference note. We are looking for E. Ask your keyboard buddy to give you an E. But the sax and clarinets are transposing instruments in either Bb or Eb. Make sure they play the E in concert pitch. Then get that string in tune.
If you get just one string in tune you actually have enough information to get the whole instrument in tune. But there is no simple solution to this. You must get to the point where you can hear you’re your instrument is in tune. It is difficult at first, but the more you do this the better you become.
Now that you have a 1st string tuned you can go further. Place your finger on the 5th fret of the second string and play the note. Then play 1st open string. Adjust the second string to be equal to the 1st. Listen carefully and make it as perfect as you can. Both notes should have exactly the same pitch. Do the same thing with 3rd string, 4th fret vs. 2nd open string. Then go with 4th string, 5th fret vs. 3rd open. Next is 5th string, 5th fret compared to 4th open. And the last one – 6th string, 5th fret vs. open 5th. Do it with high attention to detail as all string pitches depend on each other. Every little mistake could cost you going back to where you first did it incorrectly.

Tip: It is good to memorize that all fingered strings have the finger on 5th fret except 3rd string (4th fret).
It is a matter of experience to gain the speed. Do it 10 times, or better 100 times. And you will get to the point where it takes less than a minute to tune all your strings like a pro.

At last glance: you never know what’s going to be the case: tune your instrument by ear or bring two tuners. So better go with both.

New Opportunities for Music Students in 2016

by Tiffany Herleikson,

Budget pressures and a growing focus on testing reading and math have crowded the arts out of many schools. The reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) is a big win for a well-rounded education for our children and music and the arts in our schools. The inclusion of music and arts in the bill signed by the President last December shows that Congress believes music is part of a “well-rounded” education. And it is.

Research shows the positive impact that music has on academic performance. In a study by the President’s Committee on Arts and the Humanities (PCAH), Reinvesting in Arts Education, Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education writes: “Education in the arts is more important than ever. In the global economy, creativity is essential. Today’s workers need more than just skills and knowledge to be productive and innovative participants.”

“Music is shown to be beneficial to students in four major categories: success in society, success in school, success in developing intelligence, and success in life.” , According to Ken Petress, PH.D in “Importance of Music Education”. And impressively, a study, Profile of College-Bound Seniors National Report, by the The College Board in 2006 shows that students with coursework in music performance scored an averaged 57 points higher on the verbal portion and 43 points higher on the math portion of the SAT. 100 points higher is a profound difference. That could be the difference on a college acceptance, which may impact a child’s future career and earning potential.

Study after study show that music develops parts of the brain involved in math and language, facilitates learning other subjects, and enhances skills that children use in other areas. And yet for decades music education has been relegated to a non-essential status in our schools. The new bill reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and replaces the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act and the core curriculum with a well-rounded student education.

The law also protects students’ “music” and “arts” class time and provides new opportunities for music and arts education through formula funding grants. States receiving formula grants must use those funds to offer educational experiences, such as music, to under-represented, disadvantaged, or minority students. The bill specifically notes activities and programs in “music” and “arts” as appropriate uses of formula grants. This is great news for those in the music community.

Though many ESSA requirements do not take effect until the 2017-2018 school year, States and districts should begin engaging with stakeholders on how they will ultimately implement the new law.

NOVA Music Center continues to look for opportunities to work with local schools to promote the success of music programs in our schools, as well as draw attention to the importance that music has in the lives of those who wish to succeed academically.



7 Reasons to Take a Ukulele to College

“Are you really taking that?” When you’re packing for college, sometimes a little ruthlessness is needed. If there are clothes in your closet that haven’t seen the light of day for 6 months or more, what makes you think you’re suddenly going to start wearing them when you get there? Also, do you really need two games consoles? It’s a sad fact of life that musical instruments (especially if they’re seldom played!) are often the first casualties of any cull when deciding what to take and what to discard. We’re obviously biased, but we think that’s one hell of a shame. That’s why we’d like to throw an idea out there. If there’s one musical instrument you should take with you to college in the fall, it’s the ukulele: even if you’ve never picked one up before. If you don’t own one: you should. Here’s why. 1. Ukes are where it’s at Don’t get us wrong: there’s definitely nothing wrong with guitars or sets of decks. The thing is though, they’re hardly original. Unless he plays like Johnny Marr or sings like Nick Drake, when a guy gets a guitar out it’s nice but it’s kind of predictable. Produce a uke at the end of a night and you’re onto a winner. First off, everyone’s smiling. Next thing everyone’s singing. At the end, everyone wants a go on it. 2. Pick it up and play Ukuleles are definitely hard to master. The flipside though is that it’s easy to pick up the basics. If you’re a guitarist already, you’ll be getting a decent sound out of a uke almost instantly. Even if you’ve never held a musical instrument before, within a couple of hours you’ll have enough three chord progressions under your belt to build up quite a decent repertoire of songs. Play any style From Beyonce to Bach, the uke music is out there – whatever your preference in terms of either tab, basic chords or standard musical notation, you’ll find the song you’re looking for. Take it anywhere Ukes are tiny. They take up no room in the trunk and won’t waste precious floor space in your room. Better still, tuck a ukulele under your arm when you’re on your way to the beach or to a party and you’re good to go. Nothing to plug in There are dads up and down the country who’ve carried a Marshall amp up three flights of stairs to a dorm room (often a 8 hour interstate drive) only for their kids to use it solely as a makeshift coffee table. You just don’t get that with a uke. 6. Not going to break the bank Check out the prices. You can pick up a decent beginners’ ukulele for less than the price of many a guitar case. If you lose your sax or keyboard, it’s kind of a big deal. Leave a uke on the subway and it’s not the end of the world (financially at least). Start a ukulele orchestra What do you mean, your college doesn’t have one? You need to get onto that right away!

Common Bach Mouthpieces


Depth Medium
Diameter 16.20mm
Medium wide, lowered toward the outside. Medium sharp inside. Well rounded edge with a perfect grip.
Probably the most widely used model in the world. Its brilliant tone is preferred by school musicians and by artists

Medium wide, well rounded toward the inside and outside, fairly flat.
For players with a strong embouchure who do not like a sharp edge. The tone is lively and rich.

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About Rosin

Why do I need rosin? Because rosin is sticky. When you apply rosin to the hairs of your bow and draw the bow across the strings of your violin (or viola, cello or bass) the rosin grips the string and tugs at it. The bow keeps moving and the string snaps back to its original position and is caught again by the rosin on the hair and the cycle is repeated. This happens very, very quickly. In the case of your A-string 440 times per second. If a bow’s hair has never been rosined it will not grip and the hair just slides over the string and you hear nothing. What is Rosin? Rosin is a sap collected from many different types (over 100 different types) of pine tree throughout the world. The color of rosin is influenced by the time of year it is collected. If the resin is tapped in late winter or early spring, it will be gold or amber in color and hard when set up. As the seasons change to summer and fall, the color of the resin darkens and the consistency softens. Light or Dark? Choice of rosin is a very personal thing and everyone seems to have their own favorites. The purpose of rosin is to provide grip to the bow hair. You can think of rosin as sticky or smooth, hard or soft or dark or light. Dark is softer and stickier. You might choose dark rosin in winter when the air gets dry. During the summer when the air is more humid you might choose light. But many players find one they like and never change. Players of larger instruments often prefer dark rosin. How much should I spend? Student-grade rosin is cheaper and has a grittier sound. It produces more powder than the professional grades. For some players, such as fiddlers, this is a plus. Classical players often find that the high-priced professional-grade rosins better fit their needs. Professional-grade rosin is created from a purer resin and generally produces a smoother, more controlled tone. What else is in my rosin? Some companies add precious metals to their recipes. It is not uncommon to see gold, silver, lead-silver, and copper added to rosin. These materials create different tonal qualities. Gold is warm; silver bright.

Notes on the Trumpet Mouthpiece

What to buy, what to buy. First problem, everyone is different physically, and this has a lot to do with picking the mouth piece that will help you get the sound you want. So, professional trumpet players often have a lot of mouthpieces. Some change mouthpieces every song. Some use the mouthpiece that came with the trumpet. What you are looking for is a mouthpiece that has a great sound, great projection, great range, great flexibility, and a rim that feels just right.

Many players are disappointed when they purchase a mouthpiece that a favorite player uses. Remember everyone is different physically.

In general, smaller mouthpieces are better for playing high notes and bigger mouthpiece helps you get a big sound.  The Bach mouthpiece is a well known manufacture and is the standard in the trumpet world. But every manufacturer has a different numbering system which makes it difficult to compare tone.  So here are a few thoughts to help you navigate:

  • Start out on a bigger mouthpiece, perhaps a 3C, to develop your sound.
  • Most learning is done with traditional music, it’s might be a good idea to start with that kind of mouthpiece.
  • 3C or 1-1/2C seems to be appropriate for classical music.
  • For Bach, the letter, as in a Bach 3-“C”, represents the cup size. A “D” would be smaller and “E” even smaller. The number, in this case a “3”, refers to the back bore rim.
  • ‘Standard 7c’ Trumpet Mouthpiece is likely the mouthpiece that came with your trumpet.
  • As a player grows, so does their embouchure size. A Bach 3C is an average size for adult players.
  • The embouchure thickness is the thickness of your lips when the trumpet playing position. This is influenced by the thickness of your lips and how much you roll your lips inward.
  • Cup Depth affects the quickness of response and tone quality.
  • The cup depth is the distance between the top of the rim and the start if the throat.
  • The shallower the mouthpiece, the quicker the response. Also the brighter and thinner the tone.
  • Deeper cups are easier to control, but have a slower response. They sound warmer with more overtones.
  • Wide diameters are more comfortable but require more muscles to control.

According to Dr. Nina Kraus

According to Dr. Nina Kraus’s work with the Harmony Project, students who are involved in music are not only more likely to graduate high school, but also attend college as well.

Kraus N., Slater J., Thompson E.C., Hornickel J., Strait D.L., Nicol T. & White-Schwoch T. (2014), “Auditory learning through active engagement with sound: Biological impact   NAMM Foundation

D.C. Fly-In 2016

Each spring, NAMM members gather in Washington, D.C. To “stand up for music education” and to serve as advocates for the right of every child to learn and grow with music. With the passage of the federal education law –Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) – NAMM members, artists and other industry influencers will meet with their Congressional Representatives to thank them for passing ESSA, and to reinforce the importance of music being designated as significant to a well-rounded education. As ESSA guides state and local education policy, NAMM members have the opportunity to learn from representatives from the U.S. Department of Education and other national leaders on how ESSA will influence state and local education policies over time. NAMM Flyin

Marty Friedman (Shrapnel Records)

If you’re a guitar player, and a lot of times guitar players think that they have to be able to play everything that exists. They have to know how to play everything. They think that they have to know how to play like this guy. They have to know how to play like this guy. They have to learn all of these different things, and that’s totally not true. All you have to do is be able to play your own music really, really, really, really well. Like for example, I could never, ever play like Jeff Beck. If I practiced every day for years, I could never, ever play like that, or Eddie Van Halen, or anybody. I could never, ever do it.

Guthrie Govan (The Aristocrats)

Sometimes a young player will become blinded by the technique aspect and it will distract them from the bigger picture, which is of course you’re meant to write music and play music with other people, and play music to other people.

Nuno Bettencourt

I think the main thing is, for any guitar player, don’t just be a guitar player. Don’t be obsessed with guitar only. Be obsessed with the guitar, but also be obsessed with music and rhythm playing. You know, solos are just a small portion of the song. You will make your own history and be yourself amongst how you can play in a song. That will separate you from everybody else.

Phil Collen (Def Leppard)

I always say two things are very important to guitar players – you’ve got to be listening to the rest of the band, and the song is king. Everything else pales in comparison. You’ve got to make the singer sound great. And then the rhythm and melody follows. Be mindful of the song.  (City Pages)

Richie Sambora (Bon Jovi)

“But I think if I can give any advice, it’s to really work hard on the craft of songwriting because it is the foundation of our business. Without a good song, we can all be the best musicians, but if you haven’t got a good song to play, no one is going to come see you play, no one is going to buy your records, and you have no career. It’s a very important part of what builds a person’s style, a band’s voice, and a particular instrumentalist’s voice. That’s the best advice I can give. If you’re not good at songwriting, find a good songwriter to learn from. And even if you are a good songwriter already, write with as many different people as you can because you learn something new every time you sit down with a new guy.” (Vintage Guitar)

John Mayer

“I can’t stress enough how important it is to write bad songs. There’s a lot of people who don’t want to finish songs because they don’t think they’re any good. Well, they’re not good enough. Write it! I want you to write me the worst songs you could possibly write me because you won’t write bad songs. You’re thinking they’re bad so you don’t have to finish it. That’s what I really think it is. Well it’s all right. Well, how do you know? It’s not done!”

Kirk Hammett from Metallica

When you’re first starting out, there’s always the temptation to hide behind distortion because it lets you get away with murder. But, when it comes to rhythm work, you’ve gotta back off that gain control a bit, especially if you’re playing with another guitarist. Actually, over the years, James and I have found that besides giving our tone more definition and cut, backing off the gain makes us play our riffs better because we can’t get away with being sloppy. (Guitar World)

Jack White

They need to quit playing video games, throw away their Auto-Tune program and cut three strings off their guitar. (NME)

Famous Trumpet Players and the Mouthpieces They Use

Many people find out what mouthpiece their favorite player use run out and get one for themselves. Everybody is different physically and so this almost always ends in disappointment. But it is still fun to see what they use.

Louis Armstrong: 7C Leblanc France and others Selmer, Schilke, Giardinelli, Bach
Eric Aubier: Bach 1 1/2C
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Guitar Makers

Guitar Manufacturers

Barbara Guitars

The company was founded in 2001. “I have been playing, customizing and building guitars since I was seven years old. After a brief career at a local guitar icon – I started the company to build guitars on my own that the big guys wouldn’t build. I named the company as a tribute to my Mother who was my first music teacher and who had recently passed away.” Alan R. Kenyon Luthier/Owner


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Join a Guitar Ensemble

Holiday Guitar Ensemble

Sunday, Oct 25, 2015, 2:00 PM

NOVA Music Center
8963 Center Street Manassas, VA

1 Players Attending

Starts: Sunday October[masked]PM Rehearsals:  Sundays at 2-3 Performances:  1-3 performances in December on Saturday or Sunday Cost: No Charge Materials Fee:  about $20 for print music Ages: All ages Level: Mid Beginner LevelTentative Song List*Good King WenceslasJolly Old Saint NicholasSilent NightJingle BellsWe Wish You a Merry Christm…

Check out this Meetup →

Alex de Grassi Workshop

Call the store now to reserve your seat for this workshop on Monday, October 19 at 7PM from a fingerstyle master. $40


Alex de Grassi Bio


Alex de Grassi was born in Japan, and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. He switched from trumpet to guitar at the age of 13 and immersed himself in American and British folk and blues traditions, eventually studying jazz and classical guitar. Since then he has become widely acclaimed as a leading innovator and virtuoso of acoustic guitar, fusing a variety of guitar traditions into a highly orchestrated sound. The Wall Street Journal has called his playing “flawless” and Billboard hails his “intricate finger-picking technique with an uncanny gift for melodic invention.” Alex De Grassi

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Bill Kirchen Workshop

Please call and reserve your spot 703-335-5001703-335-5001

This is a great workshop for electric guitar players with some experience. It’s a chance to learn from a legend.

It will start at 7PM. Please bring your guitar. $40

From Wikipedia:
Bill Kirchen is an American rockabilly guitarist, singer and songwriter. He was a member of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen from 1967 to the mid-1970s and is known as “The Titan of The Telecaster” for his musical prowess on the guitar. Continue reading

Erich’s EQ Tips

Before you change the EQ decide what you want to improve.

  • Raising one vocal subject at 3 kHz can add clarity to that vocal to help it move to the front.  You can lower the background vocals at that range to make them fall back. You can boost or raise eq or both but be selective.
  • Presence to vocal is at 4-5 kHz
  • Vocal sounds such as ‘m’, ‘b’, ‘v’ can get lost if 2-4 kHz are boosted too high.
  • Don’t over boost at 1-4 kHz. It can strain the ear.
  • Control sibilance at the 5-16 kHz range.
  • Sibilance and brightness may be found at the 6 kHz range. Open up the sound or reduce sibilance.
  • Add power to a vocal around 80 but start looking at 60-125. Too much of this area can also make things sound muddy.
  • Speech fundamentals occur between about 125 and 250 Hz. This is where you can add warmth. If you are looking for a powerful vocal don’t add much here and boost around 80. The character of the voice is 300-1 kHz
  • To make a telephone or radio speaker voice boost in the 1 kHz area.
  • Vocals to harsh? Cut at 1 – 2 kHz Roll off vocals below 60 Hz. Anything below that are probably not vocals.

Ukulele Crash Course with Moses Kamai

We know you’ve been waiting for this.

NOVA Music Center’s very own Moses Kamai will be offering an eight week crash course on James Hill’s Ukulele in the Classroom (Level 1) beginning on June 25th. Moses is a native Hawaiian whose love for the ukulele is evident in both his playing and his teaching. He is also certified by the James Hill Ukulele Initiative/Institute as a Level 1 UITC instructor. Be sure to call NOVA Music Center and reserve a seat.

Call 703-335-5001

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Musician Meetup

Use the form below to tell other musicians about you, your music and the kind of situation you are looking for. We will take your input and create a one bio that we will post during our Musician Meetup event.

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NOVA Muisc 2015 Top 100 Dealer

NOVA Music Center of Manassas, VA, has been recognized as one of the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Top 100 Dealers for 2015.  Dubbed the ‘retail Oscars’ by Music Inc. magazine, NAMM’s Top 100 Dealer Awards spotlight the industry’s very best music product retailers and share their stores’ strategies for success. Continue reading

Pierre Bensusan Guitar Workshop and Performance

We are very excited to host a workshop by guitar master Pierre Bensusan. Come for one or both. The workshop is from 2:00-4:00 PM. The performance starts at 5:00 PM.  The space is very intimate with an audience of only 30 people.

For this event please call the store in advance. Seating will be limited. Call (703) 335-5001 to reserve your spot. The workshop is $50.

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Effect Pedals

I love effect pedals!  If you haven’t had an opportunity to play with a stomp box a it is time to head to a music shop. They are fun.  What they do is alter the sound produced by your electric guitar.   Continue reading

Vintage Guitars for Sale

Here is a list of some of the fine guitars. To be honest, we have limited space and we will not be able to bring all of the 200 guitars on this list. If there is a couple of favorites that you may be interested in please let us know. Please call 703-335-5001 to reserve a spot.

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Fiddle or Violin? Which one should I learn?

What’s in a name? The ‘fiddle’ and the ‘violin’ are (physically speaking), exactly the same instrument. The difference is all to do with style. In fact, it says a lot about just how adaptable this instrument is that it’s equally at home in your local bluegrass venue as it is in Carnegie Hall. Continue reading

GM Drum Mapping

I was in the studio the other day showing a couple of guys how to sketch out quick drum beats. The little chart below is handy and saves me time looking for the right GM tone. Continue reading

We Are Expanding Our Music Lesson Program

It has long been known that music has great power and is important in many ways in our lives. What’s new is that many recent research studies show clear links between sustained participation in music and improved academic performance, social skills, and emotional health. Numerous studies have shown, for example, that music education can be a positive force on all aspects of a child’s life, particularly on their academic success. Music students achieve significantly higher grades in middle and high school and on standardized tests such at the SAT.

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While modern synthesizers and midi keyboards can be connected via USB, the standard way of connecting most keyboard and synthesizers is via MIDI. The acronym M.I.D.I stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. To setup your synthesizer to communicate with your Sequencer  Continue reading

Weather Policy

Our weather policy follows Prince William County Government’s weather policy. When they are closed due to weather conditions the store will also be closed.  If you have lessons in Clifton please contact your teacher. If you have any questions please call first. 703-335-5001

Random Thoughts on Mics and Video

Use a small diaphragm (1/2 inch or smaller) mic on Cameras.

Omni to pick up the entire room, directional to isolate sound source, shotgun or hyper cardioid to mic from a distance and isolate the sound source.

Condenser mics usually require power.

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