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The West Music Blog
The West Music Blog presents articles, press releases and other information of interest to our local and worldwide customers.

The West Music Blog

6/21/2017 4:25:00 PM  

West Music & Chairman Steve West Honored for Efforts in Music Education

Since its founding in 1941, West Music has been dedicated to music education. Last month West Music and its Chairman of the Board, Steve West, received The President’s Honor from Kirkwood Community College. The award was given in recognition of both the company’s and Steve West’s own personal dedication to the school in its efforts to train the next generation of music teachers.

40 Year Relationship with Kirkwood Community College

Kirkwood Community College is a long established 2-year college in Eastern Iowa. Headquartered in Cedar Rapids, the college also has several satellite locations across the region. They offer several music-related degrees including Music Theory, Music History and Applied Music.

Steve West first became involved with Kirkwood in the 1980’s, while he was the president and CEO of West Music, when the school asked about purchasing a few new instruments. Over the next 40 years the relationship grew from simply transactional to one that was truly collaborative.

Graduating Future Music Teachers Sooner and For Less

In 2006 West Music established an endowed Kirkwood scholarship for students beginning their studies at Kirkwood, then transferring to The University of Iowa or University of Northern Iowa to peruse degrees in music education.

Before 2006, music education students transferring from Kirkwood to one of these universities would lose 40 of their 62 college credits. Steve West worked with the schools to pave the way for acceptance of every college credit earned while at Kirkwood. Thanks in part to this collaboration, today future music teachers can graduate sooner and with far less debt than they did in the past.

Community Efforts to Bring Music to More Students

West Music continues to be a key supporter to Kirkwood’s music programs as well as an enthusiastic booster of the Kirkwood Foundation. Steve West has been a tireless volunteer and leader in Foundation campaigns and initiatives to bring more resources to Kirkwood music programs.

Additionally, West Music has donated to Kirkwood’s piano practice studios for many years and partners with Kirkwood's K.I.C.K. Summer Camp program, helping to provide a variety of summer music camps to students of all ages and abilities.

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6/21/2017 1:19:00 PM  

Tips and Reminders Before You Start

The road to success as a musician begins with learning how to hold your instrument properly. Always remember that the goal is to support your brass (also called brasswind) instrument, not to strangle it. Keep your hands and arms relaxed. Many music teachers speak of “cradling” the instrument, which is a great word because holding an instrument is not unlike holding a baby. 
For specific finger placement, read our beginners how-to guide below and click on any image to see a larger view.

How to Hold Specific Brass Instruments

holding a trumpet
Trumpet & Cornet

It is particularly important to remember to cradle the trumpet since it is small and would be easy to grab too strongly. Place the large pad of your left thumb against the back of the first valve (the one closest to the mouthpiece). Now wrap your hand around so that your index and middle fingers are cradling the far side of the third valve. Your fourth (ring) finger should be placed, appropriately enough, into the ring beyond the third valve. Your left pinky will then rest nearby, wherever it is comfortable. Now place the tip of your right thumb between the first and second valves and slide it up until it is touching the lead pipe. Rest the pads of your index, middle, and ring fingers on top of the valves, with your index finger closest to the mouthpiece. Finally, rest your right pinky on top of the pinky hook, rather than hooking your finger inside it. Hold the trumpet with the valves vertical to avoid wrist strain.

holding a tromboneTrombone

Begin by holding the trombone vertically, with the bell pointing downwards. Wrap your left thumb securely but gently over and around the horizontal bar just above the bell. The middle, ring (fourth), and pinky fingers of your left hand should wrap around underneath the bar just below the mouthpiece. The pad of your index finger should rest against the lead pipe, next to the mouthpiece. Now tilt the trombone upward until it is horizontal, with the mouthpiece near your lips. You should find that the weight of the instrument rests primarily on your left palm, especially on the large muscles just below the base of your thumb. Now gently grasp the slide with your right thumb, index, and middle fingers. Curl your right ring and pinky fingers in toward your palm, that way they will be out of the way when you move the slide.

hold a baritone
Euphonium, Baritone & Tuba

The same techniques are used to hold all three of these large brass instruments. Your left arm should wrap around the instrument as if you’re giving it a gentle hug. Your hand can wrap around any pipe(s), as long as you feel comfortable supporting most of the instrument’s weight with your left hand and arm. Now bring the mouthpiece close to your face so that you can start the proper placement of your right hand. You will see that your instrument either has a thumb hook to the left of the valves or a pipe crossing behind the valves. Hook your relaxed right thumb under either the hook or the pipe, whichever you have. Now place the pad of your index finger on the first valve (closest to the mouthpiece) and your middle and ring fingers on the other two valves. Your pinky will simply float nearby.

how to hold a french horn
French Horn

The French horn is known as the “backward” brass instrument, because it is the one instrument in the family that is traditionally supported by the right hand, while the left hand operates the valves. Begin by resting the horn on your lap with the mouthpiece on your left, pointing straight upward. Place your left pinky under the hook below the valves. The pads of your left index, middle, and ring fingers should rest on the valve levers, with your index finger closest to the mouthpiece. If you have a single-wrap horn, you will place your thumb inside the ring above the valves. Double-wrap horns have a thumb trigger, and you will rest your thumb there. The other odd thing about the French horn is that your right hand goes inside the bell. Don’t stuff your hand in there—its purpose is to hold up the horn, not block the airflow. You should feel like the hand is on the verge of “falling out” of the bell. The knuckles at the base of your thumb and index finger, along with the next knuckle up on your index finger, will bear most of the instrument’s weight as you bring it to your mouth and prepare to play.

Proper Holding Technique Matters!

Remember, using good technique when holding your instrument will make it more fun to play, and will also protect you from injuries. Make sure you’re well supplied with brass accessories so you can give your instrument the loving care it deserves!

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6/21/2017 10:15:00 AM  
We are pleased to announce the May 2017 Associates of the Month!

This team outlined supply chain strategies six weeks in advance preparing for the delivery of FIVE container-loads of Accent instruments. The instruments had to be unload by hand from the containers (Kudos to the FC group!) and immediately prepared on pallets to ship out to dealers across the country.

The Accent team pre-planned strategies for receiving, inventory pallet staging, sales order preparation, and communication with our logistics providers. When this inventory hit, we were ready for action! In ONE WEEK, Allan, Meagan, and Joel organized the receipt and shipment of 4,260 instruments on 108 PALLETS. It was a lot of stacking / shrink-wrapping and preparing pallets for freight shipping! Nearly 50,000 pounds of instruments were shipped to 12 different states and Canada inside of a week! You all did an AMAZING job. It was “Operational Excellence” at its best - take a bow!

Robin chimed in and noted that this Accent team and their Operational Excellence work has really started producing dividends.

Congratulations, Meagan, Joel, and Allan and thanks for all you do!

As told by Mike Riley,
Vice President

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6/8/2017 7:07:00 AM  

Rosin plays a significant role in orchestra playing, but it has been given little attention compared to the bow and the instrument. Many players choose to purchase better quality rosin that suits their instrument. Below is valuable information about rosin and tips on how to choose the best for your instrument.

Student rosins are often less expensive and produce more powder when used, and is often preferred by for fiddlers, too. Most classical players prefer professional grade rosins, as they usually produce a smoother and more controlled tone.

The color of the rosin, light or dark, and is occasionally known as summer (light) or winter (dark). For violin or viola, light colored rosins are preferred, as they tend to be harder, denser, and less sticky than their darker counterpart. Dark rosins, being much softer, are used to activate thicker strings — especially bass, and are used more in cool, dry climates, as they will tend to stick in hot and humid conditions.

Prefer a paper copy of this information? Download and print this handy PDF version of the article and keep it with you in your instrument case for reference!

Jade rosinJADE ROSIN

Jade rosin is a famous synthetic rosin made in France. It comes wrapped in a cloth inside of a hard plastic container. The rosin provides a great grip, and hardly produces any dust which is great for players with airborne sensitivities or allergies.

dark and light rosinHILL DARK AND LIGHT ROSIN

Used for violin, viola, and cello, the amber (light) is slightly harder and has moderate powder. The dark (green) is slightly softer and grips better than the amber.


All natural ingredients are combined in a very special process make D’Addario Natural Rosin. This rosin is perfect for either horsehair or synthetic hair bows. The streamline packaging fits nicely in cases and the unique plastic channel provides an easy grip for students. Designed and manufactured in the USA.

magic rosinMAGIC ROSIN

Used by top soloists, professionals, teachers and students, Magic Rosin™ is a premium rosin for violin, viola, cello, and bass. Invented by a professional cellist and teacher, Magic Rosin™ provides excellent resistance and allowance for a clear, complex tone. Formulated from only pine resins and no other ingredients, its appearance is almost clear, presenting a whole new generation of visually appealing rosin.


For advanced and professional players, this hypo-allergenic rosin is made from a synthetic hydrocarbon resin compound that substantially improves the properties of rosin producing a clear string response.


Hidersine is a premium rosin formulated for cello players and made in the UK. This rosin is intended for advanced bowing techniques. Rosin comes in light or dark and can be ordered for violin players, as well.


Pops is the most recommended rosin for beginner to experienced professional bass players. This rosin comes as a large, soft cake for easy storage and application. You can’t go wrong with Pops.


A nice rosin in a nice case, this premium rosin is for violin and viola players. Kaplan rosin produces less dust keeping your instrument and case cleaner.

West Music has a 75-year tradition of helping beginner, intermediate and advanced musicians play their best. Find rosin and other orchestral string accessories designed for beginner and intermediate musicians on our website or at our stores. Professional musicians, orchestra directors and student are encouraged to contact West Music Orchestra directly for the best selection and bulk pricing.

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6/7/2017 1:43:00 PM  


The ukulele is a small stringed instrument that has seen a huge increase in popularity in recent years. Whether you are familiar with the ukulele from songs like “Over the Rainbow,” or more recently with Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours,” there is no doubt that this instrument is a great option for children, beginners and experienced players alike. While learning the ukulele can be relatively simple, its history is anything but!

Origins of the Ukulele

queen liluokalani
The ukulele is a member of the lute family of instruments and was originally developed in the 1880s. It was adapted from the Portuguese small guitar-like instrument, the machete, and introduced to the Hawaiian Islands by Portuguese immigrants, specifically Manuel Nunes, José do Espírito Santo, and Augusto Dias. These three Madeiran cabinet makers are commonly credited as making the standardized version of the ukulele as we know it today. While the people of Hawaii enjoyed the nightly street concerts these islanders brought with them, the most important factor of the instrument becoming established in the music culture there was King Kalakaua. A huge supporter and lover of the arts, King Kalakaua promoted the use of the ukulele and ensured it was part of all performances at royal gatherings.

How Did the Ukulele Get Its Name?

According to the last Hawaiian monarch, Queen Lili’uokalani, the name ukulele means “the gift that came here.” The word was derived from the Hawaiian words uku, which means "gift," and lele, which means "to come."

Ukulele Popularity in the United States

ukulele newspaper ad The ukulele became popular stateside in 1915 at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. Local musicians were featured at the Hawaiian Pavilion, which included a guitar and ukulele ensemble. This soon launched a fad for Hawaiian-themed songs among top songwriters and musicians. Some of the most popular ukulele players of this period were Roy Smeck and Cliff "Ukulele Ike" Edwards. Due to its portability and reasonable cost, the ukulele quickly became an icon of the Jazz Age.

History of the Ukulele from the 1940s Through the 1980s

mario maccaferri ukulele inventorAfter World War II, the ukulele would see another large increase in popularity as servicemen brought them home after being stationed in Hawaii. New technology brought an all-plastic model from Mario Maccaferri in the 1950s, making it a must-have for children in every household. In the late 1960s, Tiny Tim became closely associated with the instrument after he played it on his song "Tiptoe Through the Tulips."

The Rise of the Ukulele from 1990s Through the Present

taylor swift playing ukulele

While the interest in the ukulele would fade after the 1960s, it only took one huge hit to bring it back to the forefront and encourage millions of new musicians. Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, the all-time best-selling Hawaiian musician, released a reggae medley of “Over the Rainbow” and “What a Wonderful World” in 1993, and it instantly took off as a top track of the time. Soon appearing in films, television shows, and commercials, this Billboard topping song made the instrument popular once again.

Thanks to the creation of YouTube, and later television voice and talent shows, the ukulele picked up a completely new fanbase and audience. There are many popular musicians that are known for playing the ukulele at concerts and on their albums, including Taylor Swift, Jason Mraz, Train, and Vance Joy. As more students are interested in taking up the instrument, its popularity continues to rise. Read about famous celebrities you didn’t know played the ukulele.

West Music is an excellent resource for ukuleles of any type or size, as well as ukulele accessories such as strings, cases, racks, and tuners. Explore our site to learn more about the ukulele, sign up for lessons, or browse our wide selection of ukuleles. 

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6/7/2017 10:19:00 AM  

One of the reasons it’s so fun to watch great musicians perform is that they have such a beautiful connection with their instruments. Developing that special relationship with your flute, piccolo, clarinet or oboe begins with learning to hold it the right way. Read our beginners how-to guide below and click on any image to see a larger view.

What Every Woodwind Musician Needs to Know to Hold Their Instrument Properly

You want to hold your instrument, not grab or squeeze it. Keep your hands and arms relaxed, gently supporting the instrument’s weight. Don’t worry—never in the history of music has a flute tried to run away! Place the pads of your fingers on the keys, not your fingertips. This is very important, because you will usually be placing your finger on a key with a hole, and you need to seal that hole. Even if you have a flute with solid keys, imagine there is a hole so you develop good technique.

hold fluteFlute

It is easiest to begin by holding the flute vertically, standing it on a table with the lip piece at the top and the keys facing forward (away from you). Place your left thumb on the B key—the long, narrow key facing you near the top of the flute. Counting downward from the top, place the pads of your left index, middle and fourth (ring) fingers on the second, fourth and fifth round keys on the front of the flute. Your left pinky will “float” off the instrument. Now locate the lowest three round keys on the front of the instrument (not the larger ones farther down that are tilted toward the sides). Place your right index, middle and fourth fingers on those three keys. Let your right pinky rest on the “teardrop” shaped key below your fourth finger. Your right thumb should rest on the back of the flute, opposite your middle finger. Now swing both your arms up and to the right, so that the flute is horizontal, and bring the lip piece to your lower lip. Your right thumb will support most of the instrument’s weight. Pro tip: If keeping track of which key is which is confusing at first, simply pretend your cleaning rod is a flute and hold it up in playing position to get a feel for the basic hand positions.


You hold a piccolo exactly the same way as you hold a flute! The only difference is that a piccolo does not have a foot joint, so your right hand will be at the end of the instrument.

hold the clarinetClarinet

Stand your clarinet up on a table with the keys facing forward (away from you). You will see a thumb hook facing you. Place your right thumb under the hook. On the back of the clarinet near the top, you will see an elongated key, and just below it, a round key. Place the pad of your left thumb on that round key. On the front of the clarinet, counting down from the top, place your index, middle, and fourth fingers on the second, fourth and fifth keys. Your left pinky can either rest on the instrument or hover just off of it. Now place your right index, middle and fourth fingers on the lowest three round keys on the front of the clarinet. Your pinky will eventually be used on the two elongated keys just below your fourth finger, so for now, just let it rest lightly on one of them.

hold the oboeOboe

Start the same way as you would with the clarinet, with the keys facing forward (away from you) and your thumb under the thumb hook. Near the top of the oboe, you will see three round keys with holes, with smaller, solid keys between them. Place the index, middle and fourth fingers of your left hand on the three keys with holes, skipping over the solid ones. Your left thumb should rest on the body of the instrument in back (facing you), tilted upward. Your pinky can rest on any of the three elongated keys below your fourth finger. Farther down, you’ll see another set of three round keys with holes, just like the ones where you placed your left fingers. Place your right index, middle and fourth fingers on those three keys. Let your pinky rest on the lowest of the three elongated keys below your fourth finger. Now simply keep the vertical orientation of your clarinet or oboe and bring it to your mouth.

hold the saxaphone

First, attach your neck strap to the instrument and adjust it so that you will be able to easily bring the instrument to your mouth without hunching over or tilting your head. Locate the thumb hook near the bottom of the instrument and place your right thumb under it. Around the front of the sax, you should see three round keys in the area where you’ve placed your thumb. Rest the pads of your right index, middle, and ring (fourth) fingers on those three keys, with your index finger highest. Your pinky can rest on any of the elongated keys below your ring finger. Now locate the round left thumb pad on the back of the sax, just below the octave key. On many saxophones, it will be black. Place the pad of your left thumb there. Around the front of the sax, find the uppermost round key and place the pad of your left index finger on it. Skip the very small round key and place your middle finger on the next full-sized key, then your ring finger on the round key below that. As with your right hand, your pinky can rest on any of the narrow keys below your ring finger.

Back-to-School Warm Up

If you have been playing a woodwind for a year or two but are reviewing these basics to get ready for school, you may also be interested in our collection of sheet music for woodwinds. For more tips and tricks about band instruments or to see student spotlights, keep reading the West Music blog.

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6/6/2017 3:56:00 PM  

Corporate Battle of the BandsIs your office mate a rock star in disguise? You might be surprised!

West Music is proud to be sponsoring CBJ’s 2nd Annual Corporate Battle of the Bands. This contest showcases the musical talents of employees in Eastern Iowa. Businesses are encouraged to form their own bands and compete for the tile of Best Corporate Band!

This is West Music’s second year sponsoring CBJ’s event. While West Music employees are not eligible to participate (too many pros at our company), the event fits with our larger mission to encourage people of all ages and occupations to “Play now. Play for life.”

CBJ will be accepting band nominations through Monday, June26, 2017. Then, six bands will be chosen to compete at a live competition from 6-9 p.m. on August 24, 2017 at Big Grove Brewery & Taproom in Iowa City.

$1000 grand prize

Similar to American Idol, the bands perform and then receive feedback from a distinguished panel of judges. West Music’s own Alex Beamer will be one of the judges, along with Rob Cline of Hancher and Tim Hankewich of Orchestra Iowa.

The winning band will receive $1,000 credit to spend at West Music, $1,000 to give to their favorite charity, a traveling trophy and bragging rights! They will also be invited to headline CBJ’s Coolest Places to Work event in September.

The CBJ’s competition has a few simple requirements: at least half of the band’s members must work at the company the band represents, and the lead singer must work at the company. All music styles are encouraged. Last year music styles ranged from pop and country to alt rock and reggae!

To nominate your band or buy tickets to the event, go to corridorbusiness.com/events and click on Corporate Battle of the Bands.

Photos and video courtesy of Corridor Business Journal (CJB). Additional sponsors of this event include Shive Hattery Architecture and Engineering and Big Grove Brewing & Taproom.

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6/1/2017 8:00:00 AM  
Barbara Wenger grew up on a dairy farm in Northeast Iowa. Music was a huge part of her upbringing. She played piano for church during high school. She also played the baritone in band and was in the girls’ chorus, mixed chorus, and show choir. After marrying in 1983, Barbara and her husband moved 12 times throughout the U.S. and Canada with her husband’s career in the U.S. Navy.

Barbara Wenger has been teaching piano since 1997, and has been a Licensed Kindermusik Educator, church organist, and children's choir director. She has also held positions as an administrative assistant, insurance biller, and worked in sales. While in Virginia, Barbara operated her own Kindermusik Studio and taught piano. She also substituted as a pianist and organist for local churches, as well as a local children’s choir director. During her stay in Canada, Barbara established her own classes in a retirement home and daycare settings. Moving to Tennessee, Barbara established a piano program for students looking for private lessons. She taught students in grades kindergarten through middle school.

Barbara is comfortable working with various aged students and encourages them to perform in the yearly recitals. Barbara has a passion for introducing music into the lives of children, helping them develop an appreciation for the arts. She also enjoys reading, walking, watching her sons play sports (lacrosse, baseball, and football), volunteering at school, and most recently spending time with her five grandchildren.  

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6/1/2017 8:00:00 AM  
Ryan is a dedicated and enthusiastic learner at the age of just five years old. He started with Virginia Lee seven months ago when his feet still dangled off the bench.

Ryan rarely misses his weekly assignments. He practices daily and enjoys his music. In a short period of time, he learned to be able to read music, which allowed him to learn more music quickly.

Virginia appreciates Ryan’s effort to learn and dedication to practice, and also his parents for encouraging him to do well.

Congratulations, Ryan! Great Job!

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5/31/2017 1:12:00 PM  

Robin Walenta and Sen Joni ErnstLast week, Robin Walenta, President and CEO of West Music presented Iowa Senators Joni Ernst and Charles Grassley with a flag in representation of the two school districts in Iowa that were recognized as the Best Communities for Music Education by The NAMM Foundation. The two school districts, Davenport Community School District and Sioux City Community School District, were recognized earlier this year by The NAMM Foundation as part of the organization’s Best Communities for Music Education awards program which honored 527 districts across the nation for their commitment to music education.

Walenta made the presentation as part of the annual NAMM Music Education Advocacy D.C. Fly-In, May 22-24. Along with nearly 100 music industry leaders, notable artists, and arts education activists, Walenta took to Capitol Hill to advocate for all school-aged children to have access to quality, comprehensive school music education programs. The issue of music education takes on a special significance this year as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), signed into law in 2015 by President Obama readies for state-level implementation in 2018 in the face of proposed budget cuts. New research also shows strong ties between K-12 school students who actively participate in school music education programs and overall student success. A recent study of students in the Chicago Public Schools by brain researchers at Northwestern University, detailed in Neuroscientist and Education Week, builds on previous findings that participation in music education programs helps improve brain function, discipline and language development. 

Robin Walenta and Sen Chuck Grassley“Music and music making is vitally important to offering students a well-rounded education,” shared Walenta. “We join this week of advocacy to reinforce the importance of funding music and the arts, and in this case, to share the stories and an award of the districts in our home state where music is making a difference. The Best Communities for Music Education award represents the dedication of the students, teachers, administrators and community at large in Iowa that value the importance of music education.”

West Music is a third generation locally owned and family operated business. For over 75 years, West Music has been the area’s leading partner in music education, specializing in pianos, guitars, drums and percussion, band and orchestra instruments, and print music as well as offering music instruction, repair, and music therapy services. With seven retail locations in Iowa and Illinois as well as award-winning ecommerce websites dedicated to servicing music education and percussion communities, West Music strives to encourage people of all ages and abilities to play now and play for life


     NAMM Logo

About NAMM

The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) is the not-for-profit association with a mission to strengthen the $17 billion music products industry and promote the pleasures and benefits of making music. NAMM's activities and programs are designed to promote music making to people of all ages. NAMM is comprised of approximately10,300 Member companies located in more than 103 countries. For more information about NAMM or the proven benefits of making music, interested parties can visit www.namm.org, call 800-767-NAMM (6266) or follow the organization on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. 

To learn more about NAMM and the Top 100 Dealer Awards, please visit https://www.namm.org/summer/2017/top-dealer-awards

 West Music Logo

About West Music

West Music is a third generation locally owned and family operated business. For over 75 years, West Music has been the area’s leading partner in music education, specializing in pianos, guitars, drums and percussion, band and orchestra instruments, and print music as well as offering music instruction, repair, and music therapy services. With seven retail locations in Iowa and Illinois as well as award-winning ecommerce websites dedicated to servicing music education and percussion communities, West Music strives to encourage people of all ages and abilities to play now and play for life. For more information, visit westmusic.com or call 1-800-373-2000.

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5/24/2017 12:39:00 PM  

Celtic Camp Performance NewboWest Music Celtic CampLast summer’s Celtic Camp was such a success, that we’re doing it again! Celtic Camp is a week-long summer program at West Music Cedar Rapids for intermediate-level music students. It’s a chance to for students to learn a whole new genre of music in a fun, laid-back environment perfect for the summer. The program ends with a public performance to showcase what the students have learned. Last year, we played at NewBo City Market. This year we’re scheduled to play a two-hour concert at the Cedar Rapids Downtown Public Library!

Middle and high school students who play a woodwind or string instrument are invited to take part in this camp. While flutes are most traditionally seen in Celtic music, all woodwind instruments are welcomed, including saxaphones.

To get the most out of this class, string players should be able to play from Suzuki Book 3. Woodwind players should be playing from Standards of Excellence Book 2 or Student Instrumental Course 2 and have good tone. The average student age is 12 to 15.

Laura Phillips and Mike Hall will once again lead this class. Laura is a woodwinds instructor, public school music teacher, music composer and arranger. When she’s not busy with her students or writing music, she performs in the local Irish folk band, Irishjam. Mike is a professional musician with Orchestra Iowa and teaches violin and viola at West Music.

Celtic Camp is a great way for students to grow as musicians. Traditional Irish folk music uses a lot of rhythm groupings in 3's, as well as groupings of 2's, which gives students a challenge!  Also, it’s an opportunity to play as part of an ensemble.  We’ve seen students grow leaps and bounds by learning to play Celtic music as part of a group. And, while we cannot promise anything, last year three Celtic Camp students did go onto All State.

We hope to see your son or daughter at this year’s Celtic Camp. Register soon to reserve your seat!

Celtic Camp at West Music Cedar Rapids

For Intermediate-Level Middle & High School Students
July 3 - July 8, 2017
Meets every day, except July 4th, from 10:00am to 12:00pm
Performance July 8th at Cedar Rapids Downtown Library, 12:00pm to 2:00pm

Register online or by calling 800-373-2000

Hear about Celtic Camp from instructor Laura Phillips and listen to a sample of the music your child will learn how to play by the end of camp!

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5/17/2017 12:53:00 PM  

Robert D. VandallCoralville, IA – May 17, 2017 – West Music will honor prominent composer Robert D. Vandall at their Two Grand Spring Recitals this weekend at the Coralville Center for Performing Arts. The recitals feature students of West Music based Nancy Cree Keyboard Learning Centers. Students from age 4 to adult will be performing including special recognition for our students graduating from high school.

Prolific composer Robert D. Vandall passed away in February at age 72 following a long and courageous battle with cancer. Vandall published more than 500 works under Alfred Publishing. In addition to operating a private studio in Ohio with his wife Karen, Vandall presented and taught workshops in more than 30 states for many years including many locally at West Music.

Two of this weekend’s series of recitals will feature works by Vandall. Recital times for the Vandall-centered recitals are May 20 at 1:00 p.m. and May 21 at 4:30 p.m. both at the Coralville Center for Performing Arts, 1301 5th Street in Coralville, Iowa. The events are free and open to the public.

“His true passion was composing. He will be missed all over the world for his amazing talent,” said Tina Chapman, Supervisor and Head Teacher of Nancy Cree Keyboard Learning Center at West Music. “We will keep his spirit alive by playing and sharing his music. It is our honor to present several of his pieces in this weekend’s recitals.”

     Nancy Cree Keyboard Logo 

About Nancy Cree Keyboard Learning Centers

The Nancy Cree Keyboard Learning Center Program seeks to open as many musical doors as possible to its students. From traditional acoustic piano to the newest electronic technology, the instruction seeks to introduce and excite the student to a variety of musical possibilities. We take a broad range approach to the varied musical traditions such as classical, jazz, folk and popular music. Music is learned, then performed among family and friends in a variety of social settings. Students develop self-confidence, stage presence and have fun performing together in a cooperative environment. To learn more or sign up for Nancy Cree or any West Music classes visit westmusic.com/lessons.

West Music Logo

About West Music

West Music is a third generation locally owned and family operated business. For over 75 years, West Music has been the area’s leading partner in music education, specializing in pianos, guitars, drums and percussion, band and orchestra instruments, and print music as well as offering music instruction, repair, and music therapy services. With seven retail locations in Iowa and Illinois as well as award-winning ecommerce websites dedicated to servicing music education and percussion communities, West Music strives to encourage people of all ages and abilities to play now and play for life. For more information, visit westmusic.com or call 1-800-373-2000.

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5/12/2017 10:57:00 AM  

West Music Pro Tip Before You Start

When someone talks about having correct finger placement when playing a stringed instrument, they are typically referring to two things: how you place your fingers on the strings and where you place your fingers on the strings. Building good finger placement habits is extremely important for playing in tune and with ease. West Music has been working with musicians and music teachers for over 75 years. In that time, we’ve learned a few tricks to help you or your student play like a pro. 

One tip we give new players is to use finger tapes. Violins and other orchestral stringed instruments do not have frets like guitars. That means there’s no visual guide to help you determine where your fingers should go.  We’ve found the easiest way to get around this issue is by placing finger tapes on the fingerboard. We like to think of finger tapes like training wheels; eventually they will come off because you will have developed “muscle memory” to recall exactly where to place your fingers.

Violin Finger Placement

As a beginning violin player, the initial hand position you will learn is called first position. First position allows you to play the first five notes on each violin string. 

To get your hand into the right position, turn your left hand towards you and curl your fingers like you are examining your fingernails. Now, slightly spread your fingers apart. As you do this, you will notice that there is a naturally wider gap between your 1st finger and 2nd finger (index and middle) as well as your 3rd and 4th finger (ring and pinky). You will also notice that there isn't a very big space between your 2nd and 3rd finger (middle and ring).

Now pretend that your hand is in this same position, but curl it around the neck of your violin. Place your first finger about two half-steps up from the nut, and there you have it! First position. In this relaxed position, there are two half-steps between your 1st and 2nd finger, one half-step from the 2nd to the 3rd finger, and two half-steps between the 3rd and 4th finger.

Violin Finger Placement
Violin Finger Placement

Viola Finger Placement

If you were looking at the strings on the viola from left to right, the string on the far left would be the thickest as well as the lowest-pitched string (C String). The strings ascend in perfect fifths until reaching the far-right string which is the thinnest and the highest-toned string (A String). 

Keep your right hand relaxed around the fingerboard and your wrist gently rounded. Take care not to rest your wrist on the viola’s neck. Maintain a curved, open space between the thumb and index finger, so that it makes a backwards "C" shape.  From this position your fingers can move easily and hover over the strings comfortably.

viola finger placement
viola finger placement
Cello Finger Placement

To form the proper cello hand and finger position, place your fingers tips on the string. Your thumb should be placed on the back of the neck, directly opposite from your second finger.  By positioning your hand in this way, it should form a curved "C" shape with your fingers.

As with the other string instruments, using finger tape on the fingerboard is a smart way for beginners to memorize the placement of different notes. On the cello, the tape is usually used to mark a regular 1st finger (the E note on the D string), 2nd finger (the F note on the D string), 3rd finger (the F# note on the D string), and the 4th finger (the G note on the D string).

cello finger placement
cello finger placement 

Double Bass Finger Placement

The double bass is the largest instrument in the orchestral string family, correct hand and finger placement is especially important. Similar to the cello, proper hand placement includes your thumb opposite of your 2nd finger on the back of the neck while your hand forms a curved “C” shape.

Your thumb shouldn't squeeze the neck of the bass or fully support the weight of the instrument, and it is advised to have the instrument lean slightly forward. This can help your fingers press down on the strings while preventing your thumb from squeezing at the same time. By keeping your hand balanced and curved into a “C” shape, this also allows the fingers to push down without the support of the thumb.

No matter what string instrument you play, correct finger placement is vital to play in tune and have a clear sound. By learning and practicing the correct technique from the very beginning, you are laying down a good foundation and ensuring future success with your instrument.

West Music Commitment to You!

We at West Music have a motto: Play Now. Play for Life.  We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to learn to play and enjoy music. As part of this commitment, West Music’s Orchestral Division offers a wide selection of hand-selected, quality stringed instruments for the beginning, intermediate and advanced musician. With options to rent or purchase your instrument, it’s never been easier to play!

If you live in Eastern Iowa or Western Illinois and would like to take lessons with a West Music instructor, visit our Music Lessons & Classes page.

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5/11/2017 8:42:00 AM  

Top 100 DealerCoralville, IA – May 9, 2017 West Music has been named as a Top 100 Dealer by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM), the global association of music products and music retailers. The organization will formally present the award to West Music on Friday, July 14 at the Top 100 Dealer Awards event held as part of the 2017 Summer NAMM Show in Nashville, Tennessee.

"At the heart of West Music, there is a story of inspiration, dedication and a pursuit to create a more musical world," shared Joe Lamond, NAMM President and CEO. "The Top 100 Dealer award underscores their commitment – to their communities, their staff, and the industry to create a space which welcomes and inspires music makers through their products and services." 

West Music was selected as a Top 100 Dealer by an independent panel of judges who reviewed hundreds of submissions. Each submission was numerically rated across categories that included customer service, music advocacy, store design and promotions and were scored in accordance to determine the Top 100 list. 

"For the seventh straight year, West Music is honored to be recognized as a Top 100 Dealer by the National Association of Music Merchants. This perennial recognition is a direct result of our committed associates' passion for delivering an outstanding customer experience through quality products and services and our belief that participation in music has a positive impact on every person's life," said Robin Walenta, West Music President.


     NAMM Logo

About NAMM

The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) is the not-for-profit association with a mission to strengthen the $17 billion music products industry and promote the pleasures and benefits of making music. NAMM's activities and programs are designed to promote music making to people of all ages. NAMM is comprised of approximately10,300 Member companies located in more than 103 countries. For more information about NAMM or the proven benefits of making music, interested parties can visit www.namm.org, call 800-767-NAMM (6266) or follow the organization on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. 

To learn more about NAMM and the Top 100 Dealer Awards, please visit https://www.namm.org/summer/2017/top-dealer-awards

 West Music Logo

About West Music

West Music is a third generation locally owned and family operated business. For over 75 years, West Music has been the area’s leading partner in music education, specializing in pianos, guitars, drums and percussion, band and orchestra instruments, and print music as well as offering music instruction, repair, and music therapy services. With seven retail locations in Iowa and Illinois as well as award-winning ecommerce websites dedicated to servicing music education and percussion communities, West Music strives to encourage people of all ages and abilities to play now and play for life. For more information, visit westmusic.com or call 1-800-373-2000.

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5/10/2017 12:52:00 PM  
Ann is an absolute pleasure to work with. Her insight, feedback and analysis of sales and operational strategies are greatly appreciated among her colleagues. Ann’s customers greatly value her service and are as loyal as they come.

Have you seen the Decorah store lately? The store is expertly merchandised and always looks fresh for her customers, accomplished through Ann’s leadership. Ann took the re-brand to heart and has worked with our Marketing Team to develop a sharp layout and look with an inviting hometown vibe.

Ann is an active leader in the Decorah business community and serves on the Decorah Chamber of Commerce and is part of a Small Business Retail Board. In addition to her business outreach, Ann is the Director of the Nordic Dancers, which is a really big deal! It doesn’t stop there; she is constantly volunteering at Decorah High School, Luther College and at Nordic Fest. You could not get any more in-tune with the happenings in a community. The associates in the Decorah store constantly share their admiration:

“Her dedication to our customers and our team is essential to our continued success. She is always positive and encourages us to always be our best, also! Ann is constantly thinking of new ideas and new ways to help us be successful and is always willing to lend a helping hand, no matter what.”

“She is always going above and beyond for everybody she works with. We could not ask for a better Store Manager for our store and I can’t think of anyone that deserves this kind of recognition more.”

Congratulations, Ann, and thanks for all you do!

As told by Katie Senn,
Retail Sales and Operations Manager

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5/3/2017 4:25:00 PM  

Customer Becky Steenhoek shares his story of planning the perfect surprise birthday gift for his mother, a life-long piano player. Dennis and his family lead his mom on a scavenger hunt that ended at her very own grand piano at West Music Des Moines Piano Gallery. 

By: Becky Steenhoek

birthday grand piano
For our mother's 70th birthday celebration, the planning started months in advance, as we knew we wanted to do something extra special to celebrate her big day. Our mother has always been the one to go above and beyond to do things for others, so for once, we wanted to surprise her and make her feel special.
Music has always been her passion. Playing the piano and organ, singing, directing church choirs, composing music and creating beautiful Easter and Christmas cantatas, music has been a huge part of her life, and something that continues to bring her great joy. But the one thing she had always (secretly) wanted was her very own grand piano, which became the inspiration for her 70th birthday surprise.

birthday grand piano
Dad spent 6 months planning for Mom’s big day. After doing some research on his own, Dad revealed to us kids that he wanted to get Mom a grand piano for her birthday. Over the next five months, Dad enlisted the help of Store Manager Jeff Musel at West Music, who not only taught Dad a lot about pianos, but also was an integral part in helping us create a magical day for Mom. While Dad talked pianos with Jeff, my brother (Brian), sisters (Julie and Amy), and I (Becky) plotted and planned the surprise.

After coordinating airfare and travel plans for siblings who lived out of state, we created a birthday scavenger hunt that began in our hometown of Pella, and ended in Urbandale at West Music, where Mom would be welcomed by Jeff and a showroom filled with grand pianos. At each "stop" during the scavenger hunt, she was greeted by one of us and given a clue to her next destination, all of which had some sort of "grand piano" related innuendo. Throughout the day, the scavenger hunt led Mom to the Marriott Hotel on Grand Avenue in downtown Des Moines to the Dueling Piano Bar in West Des Moines, to the White House Black Market store at Jordan Creek Mall, and of course to the final destination, West Music Des Moines Piano Gallery, where there were seven grand pianos with balloons tied to each of them, one of which our mom would get to pick out and bring home.

Needless to say, the entire weekend was full of fun and surprises, and it's something our family will never forget. It was a very special day, and a big part of that is because of the people at West Music, who were so helpful and accommodating throughout the entire process. From Jeff decorating the pianos with balloons to Tanner playing "Happy Birthday" when our mom walked through the door, they really were the cherry on top of a perfect day. Thank you Jeff, Tanner and West Music for being a part of making a dream come true for our mom. I only wish you could see the way she smiles every time she sits down to play at her very own Yamaha Grand piano!

Thank you Becky for letting us be part of this incredible day! Follow us on Facebook for more stories and suppries like these: facebook.com/westmusic

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5/1/2017 8:00:00 AM  
Alyssa Wasmund is in the 7th grade. She studies voice with Jessica Saunders and piano with Tina Chapman. Her voice instructor nominated her to be a featured student because “Alyssa is an excellent all around student and musician. As a singer she has a lovely voice that is mature for her age, without being forced. Alyssa is always willing to try new styles of music and we have worked on everything from pop to Italian art song! Alyssa is wonderfully musical and expressive during performances.” She also plays the flute.  Alyssa earned a 1 rating at the recent IMTA piano festival and has started to work on her second Italian song in her voice studies!

She has always wanted to sing in musicals, and also likes modern rock music. She loves that music is not just about creativity, but also about learning new things and challenging yourself. Her advice to other musicians is “Never give up. Even if you mess up in the middle of a song, don’t stop!” Other hobbies include reading, writing, drawing, ice skating and GLOW club. 

Congratulations, Alyssa!

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5/1/2017 8:00:00 AM  
Our musician of the month for May 2017 is Benjamin Hollinger. Benjamin is a piano student of James Jenkins here at West Music Cedar Rapids. He is in the 3rd grade at Prairie View Elementary school. He has studied piano with Mr. Jenkins for 1½ years. Benjamin is always prepared for his lessons and always has a great lesson.

Benjamin’s musical goals are to learn to play the drums and play in a school band and church youth group. His advice to other musicians is to NOT quit even if you get frustrated! The thing he likes most about making music is to listen to the music he plays.

Some other interests Benjamin includes are soccer, chess, working on projects, building things, and computer programming. His favorite music is 80’s rock. Something that you might not know about Benjamin is that he was born with a club foot.

Congratulations, Benjamin! Great job!

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5/1/2017 8:00:00 AM  
Aveinda Rusk is a student at Denver Elementary. She has been studying the violin with Andrea Alert for two and a half years. She loves to play the violin because of the sound that it makes. Her advice to other musicians is to not overthink what you are playing.

Aveinda plays both the violin and oboe, and her goal is to learn the viola and cello too. Her favorite musician Lindsey Sterling. Something that might surprise others to hear is that she has five sisters. When she is not making music, Aveinda can be found playing Minecraft, Dragon City, and playing with her sisters and friends.

Way to go, Aveinda!

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5/1/2017 8:00:00 AM  

Kimball Mendenhall has been a piano student of Dr. Asia Grant for 6 months. He is a 2nd grader in the Waukee Community School District. Kimball loves using his hands to make music and learn new pieces. He is smart, fast, and loves to play sports. Kimball’s favorite sports are soccer, basketball, and football.

Kimball participates in Boy Scouts, as well as playing soccer and basketball. Dr. Grant believes Kimball deserves recognition because “Kimball is very hard working, responsible, always comes to lessons prepared, is a fast learner, and he loves music.”

Congratulations, Kimball!

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5/1/2017 8:00:00 AM  
Lauren Spence is a 4th grader studying violin in the West Music Lessons program with Gayla Drake. She has been in lessons for over a year and has made great progress on her musical path!

When not playing violin, Lauren enjoys dance (aero and tap), spending time in her church group, writing, drawing, cooking and singing. Her favorite music is Irish jigs. “Irish jigs make me feel happy! I love getting new songs to play!” Her favorite musicians are Gayla Drake, Lindsey Stirling and Celtic Woman.

Lauren delights me every week with how dedicated she is, and how quickly she learns tunes! She loves the music of Ireland, and has been acquiring tunes since the very beginning. I have loved Irish music since I was a kid, too, and having someone to share and pass tunes on to has been so much fun. She's always happy, positive, and a joy to work with. Lauren makes me look forward to Mondays! - Gayla Drake

Lauren’s advice to other musicians is “Don’t feel discouraged if you don’t get it the first time you play. Keep trying! Make sure you play the kind of music you enjoy.”

She is a citizen of the United Kingdom, Ireland and America and travels to visit her family in Northern Ireland every summer. Lauren also enjoys time with her hamster, Bert, and her bunny, Ginger. 

Congratulations, Lauren!

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4/27/2017 4:38:00 PM  
The ukulele is a musical instrument that is full of rich tradition and history. This small string instrument originated in Hawaii in the 19th century and has gained massive popularity ever since. While it is a common choice for students, beginners, and other music enthusiasts, there are also many famous celebrities that love to play the "uke."

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson Heritage Influenced His Ukulele Playing

Best known as a former WWE wrestler and current actor, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson grew up in a musical family and has played the ukulele his entire life. He explains that playing the ukulele, singing, and dancing are large parts of his Polynesian culture, and he enjoys sharing them with others. He even goes so far as to sing a song while playing the ukulele in one of his recent movies, proving he can sing, play, and act.

Jason Mraz Island Inspired Ukulele Song

While Jason Mraz didn't learn to play the ukulele until later in his life, that didn't stop the sound and vibe of the instrument from inspiring a lot of his music. One of his most famous songs, "I'm Yours" was written after Mraz had spent a lot of time in Hawaii and Jamaica, both of which influenced the light and airy sound of the song. It is this song, in fact, that has encouraged thousands of others to learn the ukulele, and share their versions online.

Meghan Trainor Writes Songs on The Ukulele

Meghan Trainor skyrocketed up the Billboard charts with her 2014 breakout hit, "All About That Bass." While the song may have a funky and popular sound, she first conceived the tune in an acoustic format, on her ukulele. This was also the way she wrote a single from The Peanuts Movie, titled "Better When I'm Dancin'."

Ryan Gosling Performs the Ukulele Late Night

As if being able to sing, dance, and act weren't enough, add being able to play the ukulele to Ryan Gosling's ever impressive resume. Showing off his ukulele playing talents in a 2010 movie, Blue Valentine, he also recently performed it on late-night talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live!

Taylor Swift Showcases Her Ukulele Skills at Concerts

Yes, even Grammy goddess Taylor Swift plays the ukulele. Taylor Swift began as a country artist and was quickly recognized for her musical talent, being able to not only sing, but also play the piano, banjo, guitar, and ukulele. She has been known to break out the ukulele during concerts, and she has also inspired many renditions from avid ukulele enthusiasts and fans.

Other Celebrities Who Play the Ukulele

Warren Buffett, Paul McCartney, Bette Midler, Eddie Vedder (who released a full album of just ukulele songs in 2011, aptly titled Ukulele Songs), and Bruce Springsteen have all performed on the ukulele. Likewise, George Clooney, Cybill Shepherd, William H. Macy, Adam Sandler, Zoe Deschanel, Pierce Brosnan, James Franco, as well as pop icons Marilyn Monroe (playing onscreen in the 1959 film Some Like It Hot), Shirley Temple, and Elvis Presley all have been known to pick up the "uke." That's just a few celebrities who play, with the list quickly growing each year!

Why the Ukulele?

As you look at just a few of these famous celebrities that play the ukulele, not to mention all the kids, teens, and adults that enjoy it, you may find yourself wondering, "Why the ukulele?" The ukulele has quickly become a top choice for young children and beginning students alike for many reasons. The uke, as its enthusiasts call it, has an interesting sound and is relatively easy to learn. It is also accommodating for all skill levels, as there are different types of ukuleles as well as many styles of music that can be learned. The ukulele is lightweight, compact and portable while not taking up very much space. These features make it an ideal instrument for school-aged children transporting the instrument from home to school, for people who don't have a lot of extra space, or someone who likes to be able to easily take their instrument with them wherever they go. Although you may not be a celebrity, you can still play like one when you have the correct instrument. West Music has a great assortment of ukuleles, for beginners all the way to performing professionals, in a range of colors to fit your taste, plus method and song books. Check out our large selection today!

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4/13/2017 3:50:00 PM  
baby having music funWhile hearing music is enjoyable in its own right, the benefits of taking part in it highly outweigh those of just listening. Musical education during childhood can positively impact cognitive development, improve social skills, and increase academic achievement. And you don’t have to wait until your child is older — music education has been shown to have positive effects on babies and toddlers!

West Music’s History of Supporting Music Education

Since opening our doors in 1941, West Music has strongly supported music education. In fact, our founder Pearl West taught in the music department at Iowa City High School. Today we work directly with thousands of school music programs across the county and support many more with charitable donations through our membership with NAMM (The National Association of Music Merchants). In our stores, we offer Early Childhood Education for children as young as three-months. Supporting music education is an integral part of our mission to “Play now. Play for life.”


Music and the Brain

Being exposed to music throughout childhood has profound impacts on the development of the growing brain. A 2016 study at the University of Southern California’s Brain and Creativity Institute found that musical experiences during these crucial years accelerates brain development, especially in the areas of reading skills and language acquisition. It has also been found that learning how to play an instrument can improve mathematical intelligence and even boost academic achievement.


Music Education Benefits for Infants (birth up to age 1)

Recent research has found that babies benefit from music education long before they can even walk or talk. One study found that one-year-olds who participated in interactive music classes with their parents smiled more, communicated better, and showed more sophisticated brain responses to music.

An excellent way to incorporate music and movement with infants is through soft and colorful scarves. You can manipulate these in the air while singing soft lullabies and nursery rhymes. They are also great for sensory play, so be sure to let your infant feel the softness of the scarf on their hands and feet. While your baby might want to hold onto them forever, please note that movement props are not toys’ they are to be used under adult supervision.


Music and Movement for Toddlers (ages 1-3)

One of the biggest benefits of having toddlers engage with music is in language development. Recent studies have found that musical training can wire the circuits of the brain in different ways. This development is specifically seen in parts of the left side of the brain, which contributes to processing language.

The key to music with toddlers is repetition. Children at this age crave consistency and routine, which is why they love reading the same books and listening to the same songs over and over. Repeating songs together promotes memorization and helps them to predict what comes next. Sound Exploration Books are a perfect fit for this age!

Toddlers also love being able to move and dance to the beat, so encourage them to explore with using instruments. Instruments specifically designed for small hands, such as toddler shaker instruments, are the perfect way to introduce them to creating and playing music.


Early Childhood Music Education for Preschoolers

Researchers in the field of brain development are quick to point out that the brain of a musician is wired differently than that of a non-musician, even a very young one. Preschoolers who were involved in making music showed larger brain growth in neural activity, so, simply put, being a musician makes your brain work harder.

Preschoolers love to sing and let their voices be heard. They enjoy nursery rhymes about familiar things, and they like songs that have repeating words and melodies.  Plays using puppets are great fun for this age, and learning rhymes together is the perfect musical actives for preschoolers and their parents!


Child Recorder Music

Music Learning for School-Aged Children

A study published in 2007 at the University of Kansas reported that students in schools with superior music programs scored approximately 22 percent higher in English and 20 percent higher in math on standardized tests. This reveals how music impacts many aspects of a child’s life and how vital it is to school performance.

Elementary school may be the first time some children really begin to have an interest in taking music lessons for a specific instrument. Many school music programs start with a musical recorder. Lightweight, simple, and capable of producing a charming sound, recorders are an ideal pre-band instrument to lead children into a lifetime of music-making.


Let Our Music Experts Help!

There are many things you can do as a parent to cultivate and grow a passion for music in your child, no matter their age. Remember, it’s never too early, or too late, to enjoy the benefits of music! Shop online or contact West Music at 800-397-3978 for suggestions and assistance.

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4/6/2017 1:34:00 PM  

Whether you are starting to think about taking piano lessons, have been playing for a few years, or are an expert pianist, having the proper piano that suits your needs is vital. With all of the options that are available, it can be challenging to find the right instrument for your level and your budget. Let us help guide you in finding a piano that fits your needs.

Vertical Pianos

vertical piano

A very common type of piano for the home or studio is the vertical piano. They are called vertical pianos, because of their vertical strings, and are particularly known for their height, which ranges from three to five feet. Due to their cost effectiveness and space efficiency (they typically are no wider than 5’), verticals are a popular choice for homes, churches, schools and music studios.

Common Types of Vertical Pianos Are:

  • Spinet – 36” to 40” in height
  • Console – 40” to 43” in height
  • Studio – 44” to 48” in height
  • Upright – 45” and above

The larger piano, the larger soundboard, and it’s the soundboard that create tone quality. Therefore, Console and Studio pianos are the most common types of pianos found in homes. They are extremely durable so they can be a good choice around children.

Rarely manufactured today,  upright pianos are the tallest of the vertical pianos, with a typical height ranging from four to five feet tall. This piano was very popular at the turn of the century and is what you usually see in older homes and long lineages of families.


Grand Pianos

grand piano

Horizontal pianos also referred to as grand pianos. They got their name because of their large size and the fact that their strings are placed horizontally. Grand pianos range in size from four feet long all the way up to nine feet long and produce a very fine tone. Many professional pianists or performers enjoy them for their responsive key action and their spectacular sound.

There Are Six Kinds of Grand Pianos:

  • Petite Grand – under 5’ in length
  • Baby Grand – 5’ to 5’5” in length
  • Medium Grand – 5’ 6” to 5’ 9” in length
  • Parlor / Living Grand – 5’ 10” to 6’ 9” in length
  • Semi-Concert / Ballroom Grand – 6’ 10” to 7’ 10” in length
  • Concert Grand - 8’ 11” and longer

If you are looking for a grand piano for your home, a popular choice is the baby grand. These pianos have amazing sound quality, are extremely aesthetically pleasing, and don't take up a ton of space. Some baby grands are meticulously hand-crafted and can take up to 12 months to produce. They are also affordable but still have the rich sound you want from a grand piano.


Digital Pianos


A compact and cost-efficient type of piano is the digital piano. Digital pianos have only been around for the past 30 years or so, but they have come a long way from when they were first introduced. Today, they have excellent sound and can even have gravity-based, spring-free action to feel like a grand piano.

Digital pianos are very versatile and can be a good choice for beginners or professionals. They cost less, weigh less, and do not have to be tuned. They also can be plugged into headphones, which can be very convenient in small houses or apartments.


Contact West Music Piano Division

Whether you are just starting to learn how to play the piano, or have been performing for years, having the correct type of piano that fits your needs can make all the difference in playing. Choosing the right piano is a complex and important decision that should not be rushed.

Feel free to stop by your local West Music store to test out your options personally. We offer a wide variety of pianos - vertical, grand, digital, and even used models - and have knowledgeable and helpful piano associates to assist you. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment to see all our different available models, please call West Music at 800-373-2000 or head to our piano website at pianos.westmusic.com.


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3/29/2017 1:17:00 PM  

Lucas ClarkLucas Clark is in the 3rd grade in West Des Moines. He has studied guitar with Mark Willie for six months. Mark Willie believes Lucas deserves recognition because “Lucas has consistently shown hard work and dedication since day one. He always comes into lessons prepared and can demonstrate his knowledge of the material. His talent and ambition combined leave no doubt that he has great potential to go far in music.” Lucas’ main musical goal is to master his instrument. His advice to other musicians: “Always try your hardest and never give up. Be prepared. Practice and listen!”

Lucas loves learning new songs and new chords. He enjoys performing songs for people and loves playing with his family. His dad plays multiple instruments and his sister sings and is a great jazz drummer. Sometimes Lucas performs songs for his class. Last year he played The Ventures “Walk Don’t Run” for a crowd at a ski resort. One of Lucas’ favorite music genres to play is surf rock, but he’s a fan of different types of music including: The Strokes, Bon Jovi, The Beach Boys, and The Ventures.

Lucas’ other interests include playing lots of sports. He loves soccer, tennis, and golf. He enjoys snowboarding while in the mountains, and at home he loves playing with his dogs and being outside.

One surprising fact is that Lucas’ great-grandfather was best friends with Lawrence Welk, and played with him before he became famous. Lawrence even asked his great-grandfather to go on the road with him, but had to turn him down. That’s awesome! Congrats, Lucas! 

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The West Music Blog presents articles, press releases and other information of interest to our local and wordwide customers.

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Robin Walenta of West Music Presents Award to Iowan Senators
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