5 Music Apps That Teach You How to Play

5 Music Apps That Teach You How to Play

Most of us have dreamed of playing a musical instrument, however, after the initial costs of purchasing your instrument of choice and any accessories you may need, it can be hard to have money left over for private or even group lessons. Thankfully now more than ever it is easier (and cheaper) for anyone to learn to play thanks to apps that you can download straight to your phone that will teach you everything you need to learn. Whatever the genre, almost everyone in the world loves music and learning an instrument can bring you even closer to it allowing you to learn your favorite songs, create your own pieces, and it’s even proven to engage your brain in new ways making you smarter. Let’s take a look at the top 5 musical apps that will effectively teach you how to play an instrument.

1. Strum the Strings:

Using a strat-style body the Fretlight FG-621 has a translucent polymer fretboard that shows your fingers where to hold down guitar strings to learn and form chords. Apps that are compatible with smartphones include Guitar Tunes and MyJam send signals to the lights on the fretboard to show you different fingerings, chords, and scales of your choice to practice. This app allows you to customize the speed to better assist your learning abilities.

2. Slap the Skins:

Yamaha’s DTX 400 electric drum set-up is a beginning percussionists dream as learning on a real set can be extremely loud and cause problems with neighbors (or even your own ears). These rubber drums allow you to control the volume, so you can increase the noise level as you become better acquainted with the instrument. It has a built-in training mode that plays the most common patterns and rhythms a beginner needs to learn. The kit has every drum that you would need in a real drum set and you can play along with the samples increasing the speed until you are ready to start incorporating your own fills and style.

3. Tickle the Keys:

The Casio LK-260 has 61 keys and is common to most musical classrooms. It can teach you tunes on its own as the keys light up guiding your fingers into place. With this set-up, you are able to listen, watch, and then play along to the speed of your choice.

4. Music Tutor Sight Read:

If you are looking for an easy way to learn music theory- this app is for you. Music Tutor Sight Read is a quiz game app created for students looking to read and write music. There are tests, games, and study options for you to choose from to keep things challenging and interesting.

5. Riffstation:

The Riffstation app transforms the old notion of learning chords straight from a music book into a real-time learning experience as you learn the chords to your favorite songs. You can adjust the tempo of songs, add a metronome, and use it to learn guitar, ukulele, or piano.


Josh Gruss is the Chairman, CEO and founder of Round Hill Music. Prior to founding Round Hill Music, from 2002 to 2009, Mr. Gruss worked at Gruss Asset Management where he held various positions of increasing responsibility.

5 Brilliant Music Gadgets Discovered at SXSW in 2018

5 Brilliant Music Gadgets Discovered at SXSW in 2018

Each year, during SXSW, the world gathers to check out the latest in movies, television, and music. This year was no exception. With music being one of the main focal points of SXSW, this provides the perfect reason for companies to show off their new and top of the line musical gadgets. Here are the top five music gadgets that we discovered at this year’s SXSW:

5. Vinyl Recorder:

In recent years, vinyl has made a huge comeback. With popularity rising year after year, the amount of vinyl being produced is slowing due to a large number of labels and artists attempting to get their material pressed. Now with the new Vinyl Recorder T560, artists will have the ability to skip the factory waiting lines and press their own records at home.

4. Air DJ:

Fitting in the palm of your hand this wearable controller is a must have for any DJ. By strapping on the controllers, artists will have the ability to modify visuals, lights, and music with the movement of a hand. This device is great for any DJ trying to put on a memorable live performance and will leave fans in shock and awe at how effortless the DJ makes it look.

3. MV88:

If you are an artist on the road and feel the urge to record some music, then MV88 might be up your alley. This versatile digital recording device plugs right into your smartphone to capture high quality sound. On top of that, MV88 features editing software right on the app to help you eliminate distortion from the weather, and splice together different instrumental recordings.

2. Soundtrap:

Similar in a sense to MV88, Soundtrap is for artists on the go. This digital audio workstation comes packed with over 4,000 presets and beats, the ability to auto-tune, and a high quality beat maker. On top of that, there is even a live chat function to allow artists to bounce ideas off of one another in real time. Lastly, this app was bought this past year by Spotify who has big plans to use it to compete with Apple as creators one stop digital workshop.

1. Cajon Robot:

If you’re a solo artist looking to add a little more flair and added accompaniment to your act and performances then Cajon Robot may be for you. Created by Hideaki Iio, this robot is designed to give musicians the sound they are searching for. Programmed with an app, the robot can produce beats and other sounds for a simple but effective experience. If you’re looking for the perfect band mate than Cajon Robot certainly won’t let you down.

Overall, SXSW was a success this year with plenty of new and exciting technological advancements for musicians that will be released in the future. This list just scratches the surface of some of the devices at the event, so feel free to explore further and find that perfect accessory for you.

Josh Gruss is the Chairman and founder of Round Hill Music.

The 7 Amazing Effects Music Has on Your Brain

The 7 Amazing Effects Music Has on Your Brain

Listening to music can affect the way that you work. If you pick the right music, you may feel boosts in productivity or creativity. Here are 7 effects that music can have on your brain.

1. Happy Music = Creativity:

If you listen to happier music, you will feel more creative. Happy music creates more “divergent thinking” which is thinking that helps you come up with ideas that are out of the box. Even if you don’t like the happy song, you will see boosts in creativity. One study even linked 50 Cent’s In Da Club to a higher level of confidence. Some suggest that you should listen to the song before a job interview.

2. Mood Boosting Music = More Productivity:

If you need to be more productive, you can listen to mood boosting music. In a study with IT workers, there was evidence that suggested these workers completed more tasks while they were listening to mood-boosting music. Music creates the release of dopamine in the reward center of the brain. The mood boosting music ensured that these workers were able to be less stressed when they were working. People tend to make better decisions when they are not under stress as they see all of the available options.

3. Listen To Your Favorite Songs For More Empathy:

If you are looking to build your empathy and self-awareness, make sure that you listen to your favorite songs. People listening to their favorite songs have more brain connections in parts of their brains which correspond with empathy/self awareness.

4. Staying Alert Is Aided By Music:

Surgeons listen to music in order to stay more engaged in their work. Surgeons listening to music find that they are able to make significantly fewer mistakes while performing surgery when they are listening to music according to a 1994 study.

5. Introverts and Extroverts Affected Differently:

Extroverts are more likely to listen to music while they are at work than introverts. The brains of extroverts are wired differently, which means that introverts and extroverts are more likely to respond to music differently.

6. Listening To Music Before Work Is Key:

If you listen to music 10-15 minutes before work, you are likely going to feel more relaxed. This will put you in a better mood before it is time to get started, and you will be able to better focus on the task at hand.

7. In Advertising, Balancing Emotion/Info is Key:

Commercials with music are effective when they tap into emotion. Some types of advertising work best with generic music, while other types are effective with music that allows people to react emotionally. The key for advertisers is to use the right balance of music to create emotions in their ads.

Josh Gruss is the founder and CEO of Round Hill Music.

Top 10 Songs to Listen To While On a Road Trip

Josh Gruss - Top 10 Songs to Listen To While On a Road Trip

The key to any good road trip is the music that you listen to on the way to your destination. Some of the many beautiful things about music are that it brings you closer together with others and it helps bring out your innermost emotions. Here are the top 10 songs that you will definitely want to listen to on your next big road trip.

#10 – #7

10. Greedy – Ariana Grande – Ariana’s bright and beautiful vocals make this uptempo pop masterpiece one to sing as loud as possible to with everyone you’re with. The key change at the end of the song is sure to brighten everyone’s spirits, and make it a trip to remember.

9. Wonderwall – Oasis – It seems like everybody was born knowing the words to this song, so putting this on with your passengers will be a fun singalong for everyone in the car!

8. Tik Tok – Kesha – This classic pop anthem is a fun, catchy track that everyone will sing along to, whether or not they like it!

7. Don’t Stop Believin’ – Journey – One of the best sing-along songs of all time. Go to any event, such as a wedding or bar mitzvah, and this will definitely be in the playlist. Singing it in the car? Even better.

#6 – #4

6. Dancing Queen – ABBA – A fun, uplifting track that people from all generations will know. Similar to Don’t Stop Believin’, you likely find yourself dancing to this song at many different events, so why not in the car too?

5. Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen – This 1975 classic changed the course of music history forever, and is remembered as one of the greatest songs ever recorded. A song of this caliber certainly deserves to be listened to on the way to your next destination!

4. Thriller – Michael Jackson – Regarded as being extremely iconic and ahead of it’s time, this masterpiece will surely be sung along to in the car. Honestly, any of Michael’s songs would be perfect for a road trip. Super catchy, memorable, and uplifting!

Top 3 Songs

We’ve reached the top 3, and these 3 songs are not only catchy, but are relating to what you’re doing….driving!

3. On the Road Again – Willie Nelson – A 1975 classic with a theme perfectly fitting for a road trip!

2. Life is a Highway – Rascal Flatts – Everyone remembers this classic early 2000’s track. It’s a feel-good, windows down, hands in the air kind of song to put on the playlist!

1. Body Like A Back Road – Sam Hunt – A new, fun track that’s chill, makes you feel good, and reminds you that it’s (sometimes) okay to do 15 in a 30. Enjoy every moment of your road trip, life shouldn’t be hurried.

Josh Gruss is the CEO of Round Hill Music

How Music Makes Us Enjoy Exercising

How Music Makes Us Enjoy Exercising

People who don’t enjoy exercise may want to turn up their favorite music. A recent study states that listening to music results in improved enjoyment of exercise when compared to listening to a spoken word podcast or when compared to not listening to anything at all.

Listening to music has great benefits for anyone while exercising. Music can change someone’s mood or encourage them to keep going when the workout gets tough. This is why so many people who exercise often do so with headphones. Studies state that music has documented effects on people’s emotions, affecting people’s reward centers.

The UK study was published in the journal Psychology of Sport and Exercise. Study subjects were asked to walk 400 meters at whatever pace they chose. The study subjects were able to walk outdoors on a track while doing the test, a measure that makes this test better reflect real life. The study used EEG testing during the walk to check the brain’s responses when different auditory signals were played. Study subjects were given either 6 minutes of the Pharrell Williams song “Happy”, a TED talk podcast, or nothing to listen to.

Using the EEG equipment, the study doctors tracked the changes in beta waves in the brain. They found that beta waves increased when the study subjects listened to music and when they listened to podcasts. Music listening increased the subjects’ perceived enjoyment by 28% over no music at all. Study participants who were able to listen to music while they were exercising found a 13% increase in their enjoyment compared to the podcast.

While this seems like a common sense effect, having the effect of music on exercise enjoyment quantified makes this an exciting study. This particular study did not show any effect on the subjects’ focus on the task or on their exercise performance, but music is still a great addition to any workout. Other studies have also shown that music makes people perform better at exercise tasks and increases the likelihood that they will repeat the exercise in the future.

Making playlists for specific workouts can be a great way to help people keep their spirits up while exercising. Try cheerful, upbeat songs to try to replicate the effects of the study. Whatever music people choose for a workout, they will enjoy the exercise more than they would have with no music.


Josh Gruss is the Chairman, CEO and founder of Round Hill Music.

Why Music Education is Important

Why Music Education is Important

More and more we see public schools are being subjected to reduced funding. One of the first things that is targeted for budget cuts is music education. Schools around the country are having their music programs cut to the bones, leaving little to no funding for qualified music instructors or equipment. Although many other school programs such as physical education, mathematics, science, or English, generally do not see budget cuts, it is almost to be expected that music programs will be slashed to pieces. Music education is important for development, and this can be proven.

Music Students Have Higher SAT and ACT Scores:

While it is no secret that music education creates a more well-rounded education for students, a study conducted by the University of Kansas showed that students who were a part of a strong music program scored higher in standardized testing. The average score of students who participated in music programs was on average 22 percent higher than students who did not participate in a music program. This 22 percent increase, as the researchers suggest, was due to the fact that music programs force students to develop attentiveness to detail. This increased attention to detail allows students to have higher concentration levels, which in turn helps them perform better on tests.

Increased Self Confidence:

Music programs help students develop confidence. Students involved in music programs become more adept at public speaking because they are used to being in front of large audiences. By preforming in front of others, music students build their confidence in ways that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to. Increased confidence is directly linked to happiness and mental health, giving music students a healthier emotional life.

Music Students Have Higher Spatial/Temporal Skills:

Another added benefit of music programs, is that they help students develop spatial and temporal recognition skills. These skills are developed from visualizing the different elements involved in making music, and then applying them to the real world. These are the same skills used when attempting to solve complex puzzles or preform higher level mathematics. Music is a great way to help student’s develop their cognitive abilities.

Music education is important for school programs because it develops better students. By increasing their confidence, students will be more likely to have better mental health. By increasing student’s cognitive abilities, students will be able to perform better in the arts and sciences, leading to higher grades and increased likelihood of college acceptance. If nothing else, there is a proven link between high standardized test scores and music education. For this reason alone, it is safe to say that music education is important.


Josh Gruss is the Chairman, CEO and founder of Round Hill Music.

The Top 3 Music Festivals of 2018

The Top 3 Music Festivals of 2018

When it comes to music festivals, Burning Man, Coachella, and SXSW are the ones that come to mind for most people. But there are actually dozens, if not hundreds, of incredible music festivals taking place in 2018. And, what most people don’t realize is, they extend to all genres – like jazz or opera. Below are the top 3 music festivals you should add to your 2018 schedule.

1) Electric Forest:

This festival presents both DJs and bands – including big names like Bassnectar and The String Cheese Incident.

What makes this festival stand-out, though, is that it takes place in the forest. Then, because of the genre of music, there’s a colorful light display that covers all the trees and wildlife surrounding the festival grounds. It makes for a once in a lifetime sight.

This year, it’ll be in Michigan from Jun 21-24, and again on June 28-July 1.

2) Cheltenham Jazz Festival:

The Cheltenham Jazz Festival has been running over 20 years now. Each year, jazz musicians from all over the world create a line-up for a world-class jazz concert in May.

This is the biggest jazz festival in the world. This causes it to attract jazz musicians and fans from all over. Because of this, the local bars and towns are swarmed with undiscovered talent – creating a cool theme throughout the area.

This festival is worth experiencing because you don’t just get to experience the best jazz festival in the world, but an entire city that is then overrun with jazz fans and undiscovered talent at the same time.

3) Levitation:

Levitation takes place in Austin, Texas from April 26-April 29th. In fact, it was originally called the Austin Psych Fest.

As you can probably tell by the original name, this festival pays homage to classic psychedelic rock from the 1960’s, and how it has evolved to new, original sounds.

The theme with this festival is pushing the boundaries and expressing yourself through music.

Beloved veterans of the genre often make an appearance, and headliners this year include young up-and-comer Ty Segall and Panda Bear from Animal Collective.

What makes the music festival experience different from just going to a concert is completely immersing yourself in the culture of the fans of that genre. Whether you journey to the forest for Electric Forest, or Cheltenham to immerse yourself with jazz, you find yourself in a community completely dominated by that musical genre. You enter a whole new world, and living it to the fullest is what the music festival experience is all about.


Josh Gruss is the Chairman, CEO and founder of Round Hill Music.

Top 5 Most Popular Music Genres Among Millennial’s


Top 5 Most Popular Music Genres Among Millennial's

The millennial population (ages 21 to 38) is constantly listening to music through their headphones and attending live concerts. Music is very much a part of their lives and it follows them through every step of their day. Data has been collected about their preferred musical genre tastes through online surveys and computer algorithms. The algorithms track the popularity of genres on music listening platforms like Spotify and Pandora. Drawing from various resources of data, these are the top 5 most popular music genres among millennial’s.

1. Rap:

Coming in at #1 is the rap genre. From recent millennial icons like Cardi B to old school rappers like Ice Cube, this rapid word rhyming art form has become a musical phenomenon. Rap songs top the charts more often than any other music style. Their catchy lyrics and repetitive beats easily stick in millennials’ minds. Plus, they make great songs for the club where bumping and grinding are popular dance styles.

2. Pop:

“Pop” is short for popular and got it’s start in the UK and America in the 1950s with bands like The Beatles. Pop music still hasn’t lost it’s steam and remains a mainstream music genre. Selena Gomez, ZAYN, Rita Ora, and Bebe Rexha, are some of the superstars of pop among millennials. Pop is a hard genre to define because it encompasses a variety of music styles. From urban dance to rock pop and even Latin music influence, the pop genre is most often upbeat and easy to dance to.

3. Pop Rap:

Combining elements of rap and pop, it is pretty obvious how it got the name “pop rap.” Music artists like Rihanna, Drake, Lupe Fiasco, and Kanye West can be categorized as pop rap singers. Their singing styles and rhyming lyrics are heavily drawing from rap culture while the music itself usually contains pop melodies and has a general upbeat feeling. Pop rap first got it’s start in the 1990’s with artists like LL Cool J and Beastie Boys who were taking an underground genre of music at the time (rap) and merging it with pop music in order to gain popularity.

4. Hip Hop:

There have been many debates about the difference between hip hop and rap, but it’s clear there must be some distinction. Hip hop artist, KRS-One has especially strong feelings about the two genres claiming that, “rap is something that is done and hip hop is something that is lived.” The hip hop genre is more associated with bands who were popular in the 90s like A Tribe Called Quest and Gang Starr. However, these songs are still resonating with millennials today who not only listen to their music but hear it sampled in contemporary hip hop music.

5. Rock:

Nostalgic for the cultural revolution of the 60s and 70s, millennials still enjoy listening to rock n’ roll music. There are many different types of rock music–pop rock, blues rock, alternative rock, and punk rock just to name a few. Current trends in rock music incorporate digital electronic music. Bands like Passion Pit, Grouplove, and Deerhunter, all fall into this category of music that is popular with millennials.


Josh Gruss is the Chairman, CEO and founder of Round Hill Music.

Top 10 Johnny Cash Songs

Josh Gruss, Joshua Gruss

Johnny Cash is one of country music’s most iconic voices. The Man in Black has many well-known songs that were hits in his time and continue to have resonance today. From his first hit song “Cry! Cry! Cry!” in 1955 to his death in 2003, Cash left behind an amazing legacy.

In his memory, below are our top 10 favorites from his discography.

1.) “Man in Black”
Released in 1971, this song reached the No. 3 position on the Billboard country charts. It’s an answer to the question of why Cash was always seen wearing black, and it’s an anthem about everything that mattered to him. It’s the heart and soul of his music and as good an introduction as any to Johnny Cash.

2.) “Ballad of a Teenage Queen”
Released in 1958, this song was one of Cash’s greatest commercial successes. It topped the charts for 10 weeks and was especially popular with teenagers.

3.) “Hurt”
Originally written and performed by Trent Reznor of the band Nine Inch Nails, “Hurt” was one of Cash’s last big hits. It reached double platinum sales and was named Single of the Year by CMA. Most significantly, Reznor was recorded as saying admiringly that Cash had taken the song and made it his; for many, “Hurt” will forever be remembered as a Cash song.

4.) “Ring of Fire”
Written by June Carter, this is one of the catchiest Johnny Cash songs ever recorded. It topped the charts in 1963 and continues to be one of the most recognizable Cash songs to this day.

5.) “Daddy Sang Bass”
This song came out in 1969 and serves as a foot-tapping callback to his gospel music roots. The song was a much-needed repreive from the darkness of an era eclipsed by Vietnam War news.

6.) “Flesh and Blood”
This song came out in 1970 and was one of many love songs inspired by June Carter. It’s notable for its heartfelt earnestness. Few other love songs could rival it for its sheer raw honesty.

7.) “Sunday Morning Coming Down”
This 1970 release is a powerful collaboration between the genius of Cash and Kris Kristofferson. It resonates with the same existential gloom and weariness that appears in many Cash songs but with a heart of hope as well.

8.) “I Walk the Line”
There’s a good reason this song was chosen as the title of the Johnny Cash bio-pic. With its lyrical depth, signature sound and crossover success, this love song to his first wife remains one of Cash’s best songs.

9.) “Folsom Prison Blues”
Released in 1956, this was one of Cash’s earliest songs and also a codifier for his musical career. The song lays down many of the themes both lyrically and in terms of sound that would become synonymous with Cash in later years.

10.) “A Boy Named Sue”
With lyrics composed by Shel Silverstein, this crossover success won a Grammy in 1969. The song is pure magic, but the best part is hearing the way Cash tries to hold back his laughter as he sings through the increasingly ridiculous tale of Sue’s revenge.

Do you have a favorite Johnny Cash song not listed above? Let us know in the comments!


Josh Gruss is the Chairman, CEO and founder of Round Hill Music. Prior to founding Round Hill Music, from 2002 to 2009, Mr. Gruss worked at Gruss Asset Management where he held various positions of increasing responsibility, most recently as a Partner and member of the investment and executive committees.

3 Tips to Break Into the Music Industry

3 Tips to Break Into the Music Industry

Breaking into the music business can seem like a daunting task to those new to the industry. Large music companies are known for being highly selective, and thanks to advances in home recording technology, there are more great musicians than ever before. The rise of smartphones and open source programs has put the ability to create in the hands of the average person; but you want to be more than average– you crave the big spotlight! Here are 3 key tools you can use to help you rise to the top and become the rock star you’ve always dreamed of being.

Get Out and Get Networking
Business journals always list networking as an important part of growing your business. Despite how much fun being a musician is, it is, after all, a business. This means that having a list of contacts goes a long way toward opening up opportunities. Going to shows and mingling with other music lovers is a simple and fun way to meet people with the same goals. Becoming part of a street team is an excellent way to physically immerse yourself in the world of music. You’ll meet other enthusiastic individuals and form valuable contacts, many of which may be with you for the span of your career.

Just be careful to try to give as much as you take; no one likes to feel used. Commit to being a true friend to all of your contacts and do for them what you would want done for you. You never know when even the most innocuous person can turn out to be your secret weapon for getting the word out about your work.

Utilize Social and Free Media

Many successful artists of the past decade have gotten their start using one of the social and free media platforms that have shown up over the years. YouTube and Instagram stars are people who were shrewd enough to use these free sites to their advantage, promoting themselves without spending a dime. Social sites like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter can give your potential fans direct, up-to-the-minute info on your musical project. Keeping your fans engaged with teasers and original content will help to keep you fresh in their minds. Consider setting up a YouTube channel to host your videos to make them accessible to those who don’t use social media.

Connect With a Mentor
Among the people you meet while promoting yourself, there is almost certain to be a seasoned individual or two whom you hit it off with; many of these professionals are eager to pass on what they have learned over the course of their careers. Having a mentor to look up to as you work your way towards your goals will help you to avoid making common industry mistakes. Having a person in your corner who is already successful will also give you the confidence you need to carry on when things look dark.

Now you can leap forward fearlessly and seize your rock star destiny!

Josh Gruss is the CEO of Round Hill Music. Previously a partner at Gruss & Co., a private investment firm based in New York City.