How can tech help you learn music? Find out and more in this Month's Newsletter!

Sunburst News

–July 2017–

In this Issue:

  • 3 Ways Tech Can Help You Learn Music
  • Recital Recap
  • Ernie's Pick of the Month

Important Dates:

  • Sunburst at Squirrel Hill Night Market - Sat Aug 26th

  • Sunburst Rocks Season Finale @ Hard Rock Cafe - Sun Aug 27th

3 Ways Tech Can Help You Learn Music

We all know technology can do amazing things these days but how can it help you in your music learning pursuits?

cpu deskWhile in many ways sitting down to practice music can be a great break from technology–especially for younger students who are limiting screen time–there are incredibly powerful tools out there to aid learning, help build rhythmic skill and spur creativity. We’re going to explore a few basic things that your phone or laptop can do that can help you in your practicing, with one caveat: use it if it’s helping but don’t let it become a distraction!

1. Playing along to recordings.

In some ways, playing or singing along with recordings is like the ultimate metronome! While it will never be quite the same as playing along with other human people, it can really help you build your rhythmic skills by putting timing at the top of your priorities as you try to keep up.

Depending on your instrument you may need a different setup to get the volume balanced right. You want to be able to hear yourself and the music clearly, and the tiny speaker on your phone isn’t going to cut it. Using a bluetooth speaker or aux cable connected to your stereo is generally the best for singers, guitarists, keyboardists and bassists, while drummers may have more success with a pair of over ear headphones.

Youtube is a great resource here as some popular songs will even have instrument specific “karaoke tracks” which will be the original recording with one instrument removed.

Protip: click the settings gear and adjust the speed of songs to .75 if you’re having a hard time keeping up. This is an especially great technique for beginners and kids!

Protip: Your phone and laptop have a number of great drum machine options (garageband is one), if you’re looking for something closer to a metronome, playing over looped drums can really be fun and helpful. There’s an actual metronome on there too...

2. Recording Yourself

Anyone who’s ever heard their own voice on an answering machine knows the bizarre feeling of how unfamiliar we sound even though technically we’re hearing ourselves talk all the time. There’s something about hearing yourself speak, sing or play your instrument while not actually in the act of doing it that’s incredibly valuable for all musicians, from beginners to professionals.

Mobile phones have made this pretty simple with things like the “voice notes” app which is a super simple audio recorder. When you think you’ve got something that you’ve been practicing down, try recording yourself. Listen back either right away or later on for yet another perspective.

Protip: These recordings are for science! They are to help you identify things that you’re doing that you like and that you’d like to improve upon. If they don’t sound the way you want them to, good! Now you can identify why you’ll know what to work on… Don’t let them discourage you!!

3. Get Creative

These days technology plays a massive role in all kinds of music production, and many of the tools in your pocket are the same ones being used by professionals. It can be daunting but the trick is to not think too hard about it and just stick your hands in the clay so to speak. Here are a few ways to get started:

Use your notes recording app to write a song - just pick a few chords and a rhythm and repeat, try singing over the recording later to come up with a melody.

Garageband sound painting - apple’s phone and laptop DAW (digital audio workstation) software is designed for messing around, happy accidents, and to be learned on the fly. Don’t worry about keys or chords yet, just put sounds together and see how they fit. Protip: try the new “live loops” function for on the fly DJing that can be learned in seconds, if you hear folks talking about Ableton Live, this is essentially what it is.

Bebot - Synthesizers are surprisingly simple when you get to the bottom of all the knobs and such. This silly little robot synth crams all of the parameters into a few simple gestures.

Improv Tracks - Check out youtube for a variety of musical canvases for you to practice your improvising over.


Did you know about our Referral Program? 

Refer a new student to Sunburst and earn a $50 Sunburst Gift Card! 




Fleet Foxes - Crack UP

fleet foxesAfter a self imposed six year hiatus, the Fleet Foxes have returned with their sweeping, moody new record “Crack Up”. While this collection of songs may not be as immediately impactful as previous records, the writing and sonic landscape have undoubtedly matured over previous efforts. This one requires some time, but you will be rewarded with new twists on each listen. The music world is a lot more interesting with Fleet Foxes making records and with Robin Pecknold (lead) already teasing the 4th LP, we won’t have to wait six years for the next one.

tl;dr: come for the songs, stay for the forest green color on the back of the LP 

key tracks: I Am All That I Need / Arroyo Seco / Thumbprint Scar, Third of May / Ōdaigahara, If You Need to, Keep Time on Me (that’s 3 songs :)


Special thanks to all of our performers and supporters that made our spring recitals some of our most special to date! So much great energy, creativity, bravery and discovery! Keep practicing and performing! Also thanks to Lorrie Cranor for the photos! 

 recital 2 recital 3 
 recital 4 recital 6 
 recital 7 recital 9
 recital 10 recital 11 

As always we love to hear your feedback about the newsletter, or anything else for that matter. You can reach us at (412) 475-8280 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Thanks for reading, being a part of things at Sunburst. If you love your lessons at Sunburst, please leave us a review on Google and Facebook, it really helps!

–Sunburst Team