Photo: Avi Naim/Unsplash
Making Music In Quarantine: The Best Online Tools To Learn & Develop Your Sonic Skills
From free Moog and Korg mobile synth apps to fun music education lesson plans from the GRAMMY Museum, this list has got you and your family covered!
With the ongoing quarantine causing everyone to spend a lot more time at home, there's no better time to learn a new instrument or dust off the one you haven't had enough time for. Below, we've rounded up a list of free and low-cost resources for learning music online.
Not long after the GRAMMY Museum in Downtown Los Angeles temporarily shut its doors, they expanded their digital presence by bringing some of their past star-studded programming online, adding new lesson plans for students and more. You can download lesson plans like the music of the Civil Rights movement, producing with MIDI and video production, to use in the at-home classroom with the kiddos—maybe you'll even want to learn along with them. Music fans of all ages will love the digital program series and exhibits. New offerings will be added daily—you can also watch newly online programs (intimate talks and performances held in the Clive Davis Theater) with GRAMMY winners Billie Eilish and FINNEAS, Kool & The Gang, Brandi Carlile, Los Tigres del Norte and more. Check out the full schedule here and visit grammymuseum.org/museum-at-home for more.
If you have a Roland piano/keyboard at home or are thinking about ordering one online to make staying at home a little more fun, the instrument company is offering three free months of digital lessons. Roland's partnership with online piano and guitar learning platform Skoove will get you jamming out in tune in no time. The Berlin-based company offers an iOS app for iPad and iPhone, to make learning at the piano easier.
Fender Play, the guitar giant's online learning platform, launched in 2017, is also offering three months of free online lessons—for guitar, bass and ukulele. According to their website, the content is broken down into "bite-sized lessons" to make learning fun and approachable for all ages and skill levels, featuring songs you'll want to learn and musicians you'll want to learn from. With iOS and Android apps, you can access the courses from your tablet, phone or computer.
Jam Play also offers online guitar and bass lessons, with an extensive catalog of all-level on-demand instructional videos, as well as live courses and master classes from guitar heroes like Brent Mason and Steve Stevens. Their all-access membership costs $20/month or $169/year, with other premium as well as ala carte options available.
For all the drum protegees out there, Queen drummer Roger Taylor has been sharing tons of great tutorials on his Instagram, including fellow percussion heroes like Foo Fighters' Taylor Hawkins. In the IGTV video, shared above, Hawkins demonstrates how to hit a perfect 4/4 beat. Head to Taylor's Instagram for a bunch more drum lessons.
Women's Audio Mission, an Oakland-based music education organization focused on bringing more women into the studio, is continuing their important mission by offering free online classes for women and gender non-conforming individuals. Upcoming livestream classes include "Breaking into the Audio Industry" and "Intro to Synths." They are also offering free access to some other great online learning tools, like their "Sound Essentials" series, which breaks down microphone technique, recording and more.
For the dance music fans that want to master the digital synth, both Moog and Korg are offering limited-time free downloads of their Minimoog Model D and Kaossilator apps. Both offer iOS apps for both iPad and iPhone that are, at the time of this writing, free to download, while Korg also has an Android app that costs $20.
DJ Mag recently rounded up a great list of some their favorite free digital studio tools, including the aforementioned apps, as well as some great plugins for anyone wanting to make dope beats on their computer. For synths, they also recommend DEXED, a digital plugin version of the classic '80s Yamaha DX7 synth (as heard on Tina Turner's "What's Love Got To Do With It" and Whitney Houston's "Saving All My Love For You"). They also highlighted the power of Apple Garageband, which has been boosted in recent years with some of the functionality of the not-free Logic Pro and, if you have a Mac, is already on your computer. In addition to a couple of free multi-faceted plugins (loops, samples and more), they also recommend two powerful browser-based tools—Audiotool and BandLab.
For those who really just love learning, and want to learn music skills and beyond from some of the most beloved names of our time, Masterclass is a great resource. They are currently offering a two-for-one deal on their annual passes, meaning you and a friend or family member can both sign up for $180 total for unlimited access to courses. Masterclasses taught by musicians currently include Christina Aguilera teaching singing, Timbaland teaching producing and beatmaking, Carlos Santana slaying guitar, deadmau5 diving into electronic music production, Usher showcasing the art of performance, Herbie Hancock teaching jazz and more.
For the music student craving tailored lessons, Live Lesson Masters can connect you to musicians (stuck at home just like you!) who are ready to teach you one-on-one over video calls. They currently offer a ton of categories, like vocal coaching, piano lessons, production, guitars, drums, horns, DJing as well as cooking and yoga classes, with more to be added soon. The website explains lessons will be tailored to the student's level, with all ages welcome. Prices range depending on the "lesson master" a.k.a. teacher, but average about $100/hour. For those who can afford it, the money supports the currently-unable-to-tour-musicians, with a portion of proceeds also going to charities supporting touring artists and crew.
Photo: Sarah Morris/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
Watch: "A History Of L.A. Ska" Panel At The GRAMMY Museum With Reel Big Fish, NOFX & More
Featuring musicians, DJs, curators and more, the multi-part series "A History Of L.A. Ska" explores the genre's deep history in Southern California. The latest installment included members of Hepcat, Ocean 11 and others.
Ska — as any lover of the genre will tell you — is far from dead.
In fact, the genre that burst forth in Jamaica at the time of the nation's independence in the early 1960s (and, crucially, is the musical seed from which reggae grew) is alive and well around the globe. Call it a fourth wave, a revival or a scene of stalwarts, but the horn-heavy, grooving and uptempo music continues to march forward — and the GRAMMY Museum is all-in on the celebration.
For several years, the GRAMMY Museum has hosted "A History Of L.A. Ska" — a discussion and performance series featuring local musicians, DJs, journalists, and others. Panelists reminisce about their early years in ska, working with legends, and the important role Southern California has played in the development of the culture. The most recent panel was held on Nov. 7 (but more on that later).
Although born in Jamaica, ska migrated to the UK in the latter half of the '60s and, the following decade, mixed with burgeoning punk sounds to create the genre's second wave: Two Tone. Bands such as the Specials, Madness and the Selecter struck a chord with local audiences as well as those in Southern California — which saw its first ska band, the Boxboys, debut in 1979. Then by the late ‘80s, California-based bands such as the Untouchables, Fishbone, Hepcat and Let’s Go Bowling were building a distinct scene.
As the ‘90s began, Southern California was the focal point of ska's third wave. Helmed by bands like Reel Big Fish, the Aquabats and, early on, No Doubt, a new generation further enmeshed punk and ska to become faster, catchier and more memeable. While third wave groups of the era came from all corners (see New Jersey's Catch-22, Florida's Less Than Jake and Boston's Mighty Mighty Bosstones), Southern California remained a stronghold for ska music and was buoyed by a strong subculture of mods and non-racist skinheads.
Today, Los Angeles remains a hotbed for a new generation of ska acts — many of which harken back to the sounds of the '60s. Southern California has also played host to ska legends, including Derrick Morgan (whose song "Forward March" became an independence anthem), Pat Kelly, the Pioneers and more.
"When I was first introduced to ska in Southern California, I was blown away by the level of musicianship and the love that these young talents had for the music that I grew up listening to in Jamaica,” shares Junor Francis, a moderator and veteran radio DJ/emcee who co-curates the "A History Of L.A. Ska" series with Eric Kohler. The two also host a video interview series of the same name. [Editor's note: Author Jessica Lipsky has appeared on this series.]
"While many fans of American third wave ska were introduced to the sound in the 1990s, more casual listeners may not be aware that ska in Southern California dates back four decades," notes Kohler. "To that end, Junor and I have made it our mission to celebrate and highlight the scene’s rich history, vibrancy and uniqueness."
Part four of the series — and the most recent — featured seven panelists representing a broad swath of L.A. ska history: Hepcat drummer Greg Narvas (Hepcat), singer Karina Denike (Dance Hall Crashers, NOFX), keyboardists Matt Parker (the Donkey Show) and Paul Hampton (the Skeletones), DJ and drummer Nina Cole (the Cover Ups), drummer Oliver Charles (Ocean 11, Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals, Gogol Bordello), and multi-instrumentalist Scott Klopfenstein (Reel Big Fish, the Littlest Man Band). The panel was moderated by Junor Francis.
The four-part series is available to view on the GRAMMY Museum's website, or you can immerse yourself in the "History Of L.A. Ska" panel by panel below:
Featuring: Greg Lee, Persephone “Queen P” Laird, Joey Altruda, Brian Dixon and Luis Correa
Featuring: Angelo Moore, Chris Murray, Darrin Pfeiffer, Kip Wirtzfeld, Tazy Phyllipz
Featuring: Jerry Miller, Chuck Askerneese, Ivan Wong, Greg Sowders, Norwood Fishe, Greg Lee, Bill Bentley, Howard Paar, Marc Wasserman, Karena Sundaram Marcum, Laurence Fishburn
If the excitement on display during the "History Of L.A. Ska" panel sessions isn't enough to convince you of the genre's staying power, consummate emcee Junor Francis shares words of affirmation:
“After being baptized into this scene and welcomed with open arms, I realized this was absolutely the right place for me!”
Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016
Upon winning the GRAMMY for Best Rap Album for 'To Pimp a Butterfly,' Kendrick Lamar thanked those that helped him get to the stage, and the artists that blazed the trail for him.
Updated Friday Oct. 13, 2023 to include info about Kendrick Lamar's most recent GRAMMY wins, as of the 2023 GRAMMYs.
A GRAMMY veteran these days, Kendrick Lamar has won 17 GRAMMYs and has received 47 GRAMMY nominations overall. A sizable chunk of his trophies came from the 58th annual GRAMMY Awards in 2016, when he walked away with five — including his first-ever win in the Best Rap Album category.
This installment of GRAMMY Rewind turns back the clock to 2016, revisiting Lamar's acceptance speech upon winning Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly. Though Lamar was alone on stage, he made it clear that he wouldn't be at the top of his game without the help of a broad support system.
"First off, all glory to God, that's for sure," he said, kicking off a speech that went on to thank his parents, who he described as his "those who gave me the responsibility of knowing, of accepting the good with the bad."
He also extended his love and gratitude to his fiancée, Whitney Alford, and shouted out his Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates. Lamar specifically praised Top Dawg's CEO, Anthony Tiffith, for finding and developing raw talent that might not otherwise get the chance to pursue their musical dreams.
"We'd never forget that: Taking these kids out of the projects, out of Compton, and putting them right here on this stage, to be the best that they can be," Lamar — a Compton native himself — continued, leading into an impassioned conclusion spotlighting some of the cornerstone rap albums that came before To Pimp a Butterfly.
To Pimp a Butterfly singles "Alright" and "These Walls" earned Lamar three more GRAMMYs that night, the former winning Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song and the latter taking Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (the song features Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat). He also won Best Music Video for the remix of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood."
Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at GRAMMY.com every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes.
Photo Courtesy of the Recording Academy and GRAMMY Museum
25 Semifinalists Announced For The 2024 Music Educator Award
Twenty-five music teachers, from 25 cities across 17 states, have been announced as semifinalists for the 2024 Music Educator Award, presented by the Recording Academy and GRAMMY Museum. One ultimate recipient will be honored during GRAMMY Week 2024.
Twenty-five music teachers have today been announced as semifinalists for the Music Educator Award, an annual award, presented by the Recording Academy and GRAMMY Museum, that supports and celebrates music education and music educators across the U.S. The 25 semifinalists, who hail from 25 cities across 17 states, were selected from a pool of more than 2,000 initial nominations from across all 50 U.S. states. Finalists will be announced in December, and the ultimate recipient of the 2024 Music Educator Award will be recognized during GRAMMY Week 2024, days ahead of the 2024 GRAMMYs.
Nominations for the 2025 Music Educator Award are now open.
Presented by the Recording Academy and GRAMMY Museum, the Music Educator Award recognizes current educators who have made a significant and lasting contribution to the music education field and demonstrate a commitment to the broader cause of maintaining music education in the schools. The Award is open to current U.S. music teachers. Anyone can nominate a teacher — students, parents, friends, colleagues, community members, school deans, and administrators — while teachers are also able to nominate themselves; nominated teachers are notified and invited to fill out an application.
Each year, the recipient of the Music Educator Award, selected from 10 finalists, receives a $10,000 honorarium and matching grant for their school's music program. The nine additional finalists receive a $1,000 honorarium and matching grants. The remaining 15 semifinalists, among the group announced today, will receive a $500 honorarium with matching school grants.
The Music Educator Award program, including honorariums, is made possible by the generosity and support of the Chuck Lorre Family Foundation. In addition, the American Choral Directors Association, National Association for Music Education, NAMM Foundation, and National Education Association support this program through outreach to their constituencies.
The full list of the 2024 Music Educator Award semifinalists is as follows:
|Dawn Amthor||Wallkill Senior High School||Wallkill||New York|
|Jeremy Bartunek||Greenbriar School||Northbrook||Illinois|
|William Bennett||Cane Bay High School||Summerville||South Carolina|
|Meg Byrne||Pleasant Valley High School||Bettendorf||Iowa|
|Ernesta Chicklowski||Roosevelt Elementary||Tampa||Florida|
|Michael Coelho||Ipswich Middle and High School||Ipswich||Massachusetts|
|Drew Cowell||Belleville East High School||Belleville||Illinois|
|Marci DeAmbrose||Lincoln Southwest High School||Lincoln||Nebraska|
|Antoine Dolberry||P.S. 103x Hector Fontanez||Bronx||New York|
|Jasmine Fripp||KIPP Nashville Collegiate High School||Nashville||Tennessee|
|J.D. Frizzell||Briarcrest Christian School||Eads||Tennessee|
|Amanda Hanzlik||E.O. Smith High School||Storrs||Connecticut|
|Michael Lapomardo||Shrewsbury High School||Shrewsbury||Massachusetts|
|Ashleigh McDaniel Spatz||Rising Starr Middle School||Fayetteville||Georgia|
|Kevin McDonald||Wellesley High School||Wellesley||Massachusetts|
|Coty Raven Morris||Portland State University||Portland||Oregon|
|Trevor Nicholas||Senn Arts at Nicholas Senn High School||Chicago||Illinois|
|Vicki Nichols||Grandview Elementary||Grandview||Texas|
|Annie Ray||Annandale High School||Annandale||Virginia|
|Bethany Robinson||Noblesville High School||Noblesville||Indiana|
|Danni Schmitt||Roland Park Elementary/Middle School||Baltimore||Maryland|
|Kevin Schoenbach||Oswego High School||Oswego||Illinois|
|Matthew Shephard||Meridian Early College High School||Sanford||Michigan|
|Alice Tsui||New Bridges Elementary||Brooklyn||New York|
|Tammy Yi||Chapman University||Orange||California|
Learn more about the Music Educator Award and apply to the 2025 Music Educator Award program now.
Photo Courtesy of the Recording Academy™️/photo by Rebecca Sapp, Getty Images© 2023.
Inside The GRAMMY Museum’s New Exhibit, "Hip-Hop America": From Dapper Dan To Tupac’s Notes
Open now through September 2024, "Hip-Hop America: The Mixtape Exhibit" commemorates the genre’s 50th anniversary through interactive installations and displays of everything from photos to fashion.
You can get up close and personal with the Notorious B.I.G.’s red leather peacoat or test out your turntable skills at Hip-Hop America: The Mixtape Exhibit, open now at the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles. A retrospective look to mark the genre’s 50th anniversary, Hip-Hop America brings together elements of fashion, music, dance, graffiti, business, activism, and history — all with the aim of capturing the sweeping, global impact of hip-hop.
"It's something that started as a genre that people considered a fad, as a novelty," says GRAMMY Museum Chief Curator Jasen Emmons, "but it has become not only a global musical force, but a global cultural force. So many young people have grown up with hip-hop and take it for granted, but its ability to evolve and continue to be relevant is pretty powerful."
The 5,000-square foot exhibit space is packed with artifacts, interactive elements, and curated video, as well as photo ops. Here are six things we learned walking through the installation, which runs through Sept. 4, 2024.
There Were Always Women In Hip-Hop
Saweetie┃Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
Entering Hip-Hop America, you’ll get a look at a few standalone cases featuring everything from an essay Tupac Shakur wrote in junior high, to a gorgeously over the top set of custom nails made for Saweetie by celebrity nail artist Temeka Jackson. The exhibit’s main space showcases what life was like in the Boogie Down Bronx, the birthplace of hip-hop music and culture. On display are pieces like a leather vest made for a junior member of the Young Nomads street gang and pieces of graffiti art from Edwin "HE."
Also on display are various paint caps used by Lady Pink, an artist known for her work in New York in the late ‘70s and ‘80s. She would go on to star in 1983’s Wild Style, which is widely regarded as the first hip-hop movie.
The inclusion of influencers and acts like Lady Pink was a very intentional move on the part of the exhibit’s creators, Emmons says. Quite often, when people think about hip-hop’s origins, they think of acts like the Sugar Hill Gang, Cold Crush Crew, and Fab 5 Freddy, and they were all there — and are all featured in the exhibit — but they grew and prospered alongside a number of female acts, and with the help and support of women like Sylvia Robinson, the founder of Sugar Hill Records who produced "Rappers Delight." Her confidence and the success of that track helped birth a wealth of small, independent labels that helped give the new sound a platform.
Hip-Hop And Soul Have Intermingled From The Beginning
Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
In the middle of the exhibit, there’s an interactive video display dedicated to the marriage of the hip-hop and soul genres. Hip-hop, it says, "is an omnigenre that incorporates many music traditions." The relationship between hip-hop and R&B is complex, the exhibit continued:
While early rappers tended to avoid R&B-friendly topics like love and loss in favor of what the exhibit calls "braggadocio," by the 1990s rappers and R&B stars were working together in harmony. The resulting hip-hop soul gave songs like Janet Jackson and Q-Tip’s "Got ‘Til It’s Gone" and Mariah Carey and Jay-Z’s "Heartbreaker" a permanent place in the cultural lexicon.
Hip-Hop Has A Mind For Business
A history of entrepreneurs┃Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
One of Hip-Hop America’s exhibits focuses on the commercial aspects of the genre, highlighting people like the aforementioned Robinson and acts like the Wu-Tang Clan, who refused to sign all of their members to one label. They instead insisted that each member have an individual deal with one of the six majors, meaning that, come album release time, each label would have a vested interest in promoting the material and the group. That’s smart thinking.
A Lot Of Rappers Have Great Penmanship
Handwritten lyrics for "Fight The Power"┃Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
There are a number of handwritten pieces in Hip-Hop America, from Shakur’s junior high essay about citizenship to Lil Wayne’s letters home from prison and Wyclef Jean’s lyrics for the Fugees’ "Ready Or Not." Everything is remarkably legible and these pieces offer unique insight into the mind and lives of some of hip-hop’s biggest acts.
Take, for instance, a case featuring the late Shock G’s hand-drawn album cover art for "The Humpty Dance." He leaves copious notes on the drawing and in accompanying materials explaining not only what samples he wants cleared for the record but noting that in his cartoon visage, "Humpty’s gums are not white or red," saying the artist should use "the same brown used for the skin." Looking at these pieces, it’s clear that Shock G took his art and his image very seriously, and that though "The Humpty Dance" may have become a party classic, a lot of work went into creating something so fun.
B.I.G. Was Big, Big, Big
Biggie's peacoat and other distinctive jackets┃Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
For someone to earn the moniker "the Notorious B.I.G.," they probably have to be pretty large in either stature or scale. At Hip-Hop America, you’ll get a sense of how big the artist born Christopher Wallace. actually was, thanks to a mannequin sporting his iconic 5001 Flavors red leather peacoat and Karl Kani jeans.
Worn in an appearance on "MTV News," for a feature in Vibe, and in the Junior M.A.F.I.A. video for "Player’s Anthem," the coat was one of Biggie’s favorites and has the scuff marks, wear, and creases to prove it.
Ryan Butler, the VP of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the Recording Academy and an advisory board member for the exhibit, says that Biggie’s coat is one of his favorite pieces in the exhibit, in part because it’s placed (per the Shakur family’s request) next to the white suit that Tupac wore in his last music video.
Hip-Hop Fashion Has Defined Trends For Generations
Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
"To really see the impact that hip-hop has had on fashion is just so incredible," says Butler.
That impact is made clear throughout the exhibit, which features items like Andre 3000’s fringed green pants from the 46th GRAMMY Awards, MC Lyte’s bamboo earrings, and the chain and padlock worn by Naughty By Nature's Treach before he could afford something a little more swank.
"The rugged accessory suggested strength and proved useful as a defensive weapon when the trio faced potential violence in clubs," the exhibit notes, continuing that, "It was also meant to show solidarity with those locked up."
Also on display are multiple pieces made by the legendary designer Dapper Dan, who’s been fashioning hip-hop looks since the very beginning. There’s a look at the beginning of the exhibit that he made for old school DJ Busy Bee that’s pretty sharp even now, as well as a longer black leather motorcycle jacket he customized for Melle Mel to wear at the 1985 GRAMMY Awards, where he rapped the intro to Chaka Khan’s "I Feel For You."