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What Makes a Great Music Teacher?

What Makes a Great Music Teacher?

Greatness in teaching is just as rare as greatness in any other profession. Although it’s impossible to offer a prescription of qualities in order to cultivate great music teachers, understanding these qualities can give all would-be teachers a standard of excellence to strive for, and guide schools and parents toward what they should look for in current and prospective teachers.
Here are just a few characteristic traits that I believe all great music teachers have:
Great teachers connect to their students on an emotional level. We all remember how teachers we really respected made us feel. We remember the teachers who saw something special in us and identified with us on some level. Before we teach, we must show that we care — and there are many ways to do this. The best way is the one that comes natural, and for me that is humor — but it can be anything from eye contact, a strong sense of empathy, or something else that indicates that the teacher truly “sees” the needs of each individual student.
Great teachers don’t look to make everyone feel warm and fuzzy all the time. There are a lot of school music teachers who strive to have all of their students “like” them. They look to ensure that all of their students are happy and comfortable at all times, making sure that there is not too much effort involved with rehearsing and learning. These teachers usually run entire pieces of music and cover a lot of material in a short period of time –they tend to not “dig in” to small sections and have a laissez-faire approach to developing young musicians. Great teachers, however, command respect and are not afraid to stretch their students’ comfort zone in order to teach them how to strive toward achieving greatness.
Effective teachers are great communicators of knowledge. You will rarely walk into a great teacher’s rehearsal and see them giving long speeches. Highly effective music teachers keep the concepts at the highest level but the explanations short and incredibly clear. A great teacher has a target they are aiming their students toward and do everything in their power to guide them toward it in the most efficient manner. Often times, the most useful information is delivered in a few seconds between the action (in our case, making sounds) that should be occurring throughout the majority of class time.
Great music teachers love fundamentals (and know how to “sell” them to their students). Wise music teachers understand that technique is essential, and that proper technique can be taught during a school day, no matter how many students are in the class. These teachers are not afraid to go back to the beginning of a method book and honor the foundations of playing a musical instrument. Not only will a great teacher understand that building blocks such as posture, breathing, and hand position are critical to beginners, they also understand that these fundamentals must be constantly reinforced throughout their student’s schooling. Great teachers do not abandon fundamentals in order to “teach to a concert” — they ensure that their concert repertoire is an extension of strong musical foundations.
Being “scared” of your teacher once in a while is not the worst thing in the world. Of course I do not mean that students should fear their teacher, or that teachers should ever scare their students intentionally. But great teachers often evoke feelings that may be unfamiliar to our younger generation — students should feel true respect for a great music teacher; they will also tend to admire them very much; and yes — they will be a little scared of them from time to time.
Even though it may often seem this way, students do not win when teachers seek to be their buddy, or even a parent figure. They do need someone who they trust (and trust a lot) and someone who they will dedicate their time to being with for a long haul, but there needs to be a little distance present. Students should be a little timid to show up unprepared to create music. The words “that’s okay” should not come out of a great teacher’s mouth when students aren’t holding themselves to a high standard. Great teachers are honest and tell students “how it is”, even if it is sometimes a little blunt. Hearing the truth is rough, but when true constructive feedback is delivered with clear language that is not personalized, students will be thankful, and see that they can use that information to get better.
Great music teachers understand that every single child is capable of becoming proficient at their craft. We have a long way to go to dispel the myth that talent and musical ability is inherent and inborn. Great teachers understand that they must help build proficient young players, one day at a time. While some students may have instant and early success, a great teacher communicates through their teaching that those who persist and practice in an intelligent and mindful way will grow, learn and reach their potential as well.
Great teachers render themselves useless. The long-term goal of any teacher should be to help their students learn so much that they longer need the teacher. They do not lead by personality alone, and needing to be the center of attention. That’s why great music programs cannot be built on a personality — it isn’t sustainable. Successful music teachers create a culture where students want to continue to go beyond their comfort zones in order to get better on their own. These teachers seek to create moments of independence, so that students can slowly begin to “teach themselves” moving forward beyond the classroom.
Self reflection is a requirement of great teaching. Most great teachers do not think of themselves as being great. They are constant students of their craft, and constantly look in the mirror and ask themselves, “How can I do this better?”. We all learn by experiences and mistakes, but unless teachers question themselves about what their experiences mean and think actively about them, they won’t make any changes. Self-reflection enables teachers to move from good to great by eating some “humble pie” once in a while and not being afraid to grow and make changes along their professional journey.
It’s impossible for me (or anyone) to produce a complete and definitive list of the characteristics of great music teaching, but I believe this is an important starting place. Knowing the qualities of greatness can help teachers strive for the highest standards and help students, parents, and school systems celebrate music as a core part of their curricula. Observing a great music teacher at the top of his or her game is like watching a masterful performance; although infinitely difficult and painstakingly planned, great teaching appears effortless and seamless.
Many parents and administrators tend to believe that teaching music is the simplest thing in the world—until they actually see the work that goes into it.

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Benefits of Playing a Musical Instrument

Benefits of Playing a Musical Instrument

CAN YOU IMAGINE LIVING YOUR LIFE WITHOUT MUSIC? IT WOULD BE VERY HARD TO DO SO, AS MUSIC HAS BEEN HARD-WIRED INTO OUR VERY EXISTENCE AS HUMAN BEINGS. THE CHINESE PHILOSOPHER CONFUCIUS SAID LONG AGO THAT “MUSIC PRODUCES A KIND OF PLEASURE WHICH HUMAN NATURE CANNOT DO WITHOUT.” PLAYING A MUSICAL INSTRUMENT HAS MANY BENEFITS AND CAN BRING JOY TO YOU AND TO EVERYONE AROUND YOU. THIS ARTICLE WILL PROVIDE YOU WITH 18 BENEFITS OF PLAYING AN INSTRUMENT (IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER) AND WILL HOPEFULLY GIVE YOU A BETTER SENSE OF APPRECIATION AND PRIDE FOR MUSIC.
The Benefits
1. Increases the capacity of your memory. Research has shown that both listening to music and playing a musical instrument stimulate your brain and can increase your memory. A study was done in which 22 children from age 3 to 4 and a half years old were given either singing lessons or keyboard lessons. A control group of 15 children received no music lessons at all. Both groups participated in the same preschool activities. The results showed that preschoolers who had weekly keyboard lessons improved their spatial-temporal skills 34 percent more than the other children. Not only that, but researchers said that the effect lasted long-term.
According to an article from The Telegraph online magazine, “New research suggests that regularly playing an instrument changes the shape and power of the brain and may be used in therapy to improve cognitive skills.” There is continually more evidence that musicians have organizationally and functionally different brains compared to non-musicians, especially in the areas of the brain used in processing and playing music. If you learn how to play an instrument, the parts of your brain that control motor skills (ex: using your hands, running, swimming, balancing, etc.), hearing, storing audio information, and memory actually grow and become more active. Other results show that playing an instrument can help your IQ increase by seven points.
2. Refines your time management and organizational skills. Learning how to play an instrument requires you to really learn how to be organized and to manage your time wisely. A good musician knows that the quality of practice time is more valuable than the quantity. In order for a musician to progress quicker, he/she will learn how to organize his/her practice time and plan different challenges to work on, making efficient use of time.
3. Boosts your team skills.Team skills are a very important aspect of being successful in life. Playing an instrument requires you to work with others to make music. In band and orchestra settings you must learn how to cooperate with the people around you. Also, in order for a group to make beautiful music, each player and section must learn how to listen to each other and play together.
4. Teaches you perseverance.Learning to play an instrument takes time and effort, which really teaches you patience and perseverance. Most people can’t play every piece of music perfectly the first time. In fact, the majority of musicians have to work difficult sections of music multiple times in a row before they can play it correctly.
5. Enhances your coordination.The art of playing an instrument requires a lot of hand-eye coordination. By reading musical notes on a page, your brain subconsciously must convert that note into specific motor patterns while also adding breathing and rhythm to the mix.
6. Betters your mathematical ability. Reading music requires counting notes and rhythms and can help your math skills. Also, learning music theory includes many mathematical aspects. Studies have shown that students who play instruments or study the arts are often better in math and achieve higher grades in school than students who don’t.
7. Improves your reading and comprehension skills. According to a study published in the journal Psychology of Music, “Children exposed to a multi-year program of music tuition involving training in increasingly complex rhythmic, tonal, and practical skills display superior cognitive performance in reading skills compared with their non-musically trained peers.” It’s not surprising to hear results like that because music involves constant reading and comprehension. When you see black and white notes on a page, you have to recognize what the note name is and translate it to a finger/slide position. At the same time, you also have to read what rhythms the notes are arranged in and force your tongue to produce the correct pattern.
8. Increases your responsibility. Playing an instrument comes with its responsibilities. Maintenance and care are very important in keeping an instrument in working condition. Each instrument has different procedures to keep in functioning properly, but most instruments need cleaning and some form of oiling/greasing. In addition to maintenance responsibilities, there are other aspects such as remembering music events (like rehearsals and performances) and making time to practice.
9. Exposes you to cultural history. Often times music reflects the environment and times of its creation. Therefore, you learn a variety of music types such as classical traditions, folk music, medieval, and other genres. Music itself is history, and each piece usually has its own background and storyline that can further your appreciation of other cultures.
10. Sharpens your concentration. Playing music by yourself requires you to concentrate on things like pitch, rhythm, tempo, note duration, and quality of sound. Playing music in a group involves even more concentration because you must learn to not only hear yourself, but you must listen to all the other sections and play in harmony with the rest of the group.
11. Fosters your self-expression and relieves stress. It’s your instrument, so you can play whatever you want on it! The more advanced you become on an instrument, the greater you’ll be able to play what you want and how you want. Music is an art–just like an artist can paint his/her emotions onto a canvas, so can a musician play a piece with emotion. This has proven to relieve stress and can be a great form of therapy. In fact, music therapy has been useful in treating children and teens with autism, depression, and other disorders.
12. Creates a sense of achievement. Overcoming musical challenges that you thought you’d never quite master can give you a great sense of pride about yourself. When you first start learning how to play an instrument, it seems like just holding out a note for a couple beats or hitting a high pitch is an amazing accomplishment. As you practice and become a more experienced musician, making beautiful sounding music pleasing not only to your ear, but others as well is a very rewarding experience.
13. Promotes your social skills. Playing an instrument can be a great way to enhance your social skills. Some of the best people join bands and orchestras, and many times the friends you make here become like family. It’s very common for people to gain lifelong friendships through musical activities like these.
14. Boosts your listening skills. Although it’s pretty obvious, playing an instrument requires you to listen very carefully to things. You have to learn how to hear when you’re playing a wrong note in order to correct yourself. Tuning your instrument means hearing if the pitch you’re playing is high (sharp) or low (flat). When playing in an ensemble, you have to listen for the melody and play softer if you’re the supporting part (accompaniment). There are too many examples to list every possibility here, but by playing an instrument you are guaranteed to improve your listening skills.
15. Teaches you discipline. As previously mentioned, playing an instrument can be very challenging. One of the qualities that musicians learn is discipline. Practicing often and working on the hard parts of music and not just the easy and fun stuff requires discipline. The best musicians in the world are masters of discipline which is why they are so successful on their instrument.
16. Elevates your performance skills and reduces stage fright. One of the goals of practicing so much on your instrument is so that you can perform for others. The more you get up in front of people and perform, the more you’ll reduce any stage fright. Playing on stage in a band or orchestra helps with stage fright because you’re not alone. Also, being prepared and really knowing how to play your part makes it much easier to get up and play for a crowd.
17. Enhances your respiratory system. If you have a good music director/tutor, you should hear them tell you quite often to “use more air!” Air is one of the key components in making wonderful-sounding music. In order to play any piece of music correctly when playing an instrument, you’ll need to take huge breaths and learn how to expel the air properly to make the desired sound. Breathing exercises are highly recommended for musicians, and they can really strengthen your respiratory system.
18. Promotes happiness in your life and those around you. Playing a musical instrument can be very fun and exciting. Not only is it fun to play music that you enjoy, but it feels wonderful to hear an audience applaud you for giving a great performance. It can also be very honorable and gratifying to voluntarily play in your local community and see the happiness on people’s faces because they enjoy watching you play.
Conclusion
As you can see, playing a musical instrument has many benefits and hopefully that will motivate you to keep on practicing and always hold music in high esteem. Whenever you come across challenges as a musician, think about the end results and always remind yourself of all the great reasons you love to play. I’ll leave you with an inspiring quote by jazz saxophonist and composer Charlie Parker who once said, “Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom. If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn.”

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6 Ways to make Practice ‘Perfect’ not Painful

6 Ways to make Practice ‘Perfect’ not Painful

Is Practice a four letter word in your house? Are their frequent arguments over the lack of this essential part of learning an instrument? As a parent of 3 children, all of whom learnt an instrument at some point in their early years, I know all too well the frustration of trying to instil the necessity of a practice routine and even harder, enforcing it!
In a blog post by Anastasia Tsioulcas on NPRmusic website, titled “Getting Kids to Practice- Without Tears or Tantrums, Anastasia also speaks from the perspective of being a parent of a young musician but also from having been a young practicing musician herself. Many of her points regarding practice and ways to encourage and motivate, I also advocate to parents on a daily basis.
Dedicate a space for practice: this can be a bedroom, in the main living area or in a space that is light and comfortable. If space is tight, it only requires a corner of the room to set up a music stand and have the instrument ready and waiting to be played. If a child constantly sees the instrument they are more likely to remember to play it.

Rewards systems: encourage the discipline of regular practice. Anastasia males the valid comment that it is the adult that needs to teach this discipline as it isn’t something that is naturally inherit in children and is a skill that is learnt. For example a ‘Music Money’ incentive program where children get rewarded for practice, progress and performance. The ultimate goal is to save up music money to a set dollar value(say $1,000) then trade it in for a movie ticket or another item of value. Of course, many will fold before they hit this target and trade for lesser items but this is also a great lesson in saving and spending.

Create a routine: I always suggest linking practice in to homework routines. This way it becomes a good habit and part of the routine. Some families find early morning practice more effective as children are more responsive to learning when fresh. Change things around and see if you can create a routine that suits your family better.Set small goals: rather than tackling everything at once, set some smaller goals for your child. Practice one piece one day and one on the next. Spend 5 to 10 minutes in quality practice time rather than arguing for 30 minutes and not achieving anything. Every just practice a couple of more difficult bars and leave the rest of the piece for later. It is sometimes only 1 or 2 bars that sends the whole practice routine out the window with a tantrum of frustration.Gentle Persuasion is key: a great way to encourage practice is to be part of the routine. 5 or 10 minutes of your undivided attention is worth alot to your young prodigy. You will find as they grow older they will be =come more willing to initiate practice for themselves and you may even be surprised to find they have started without any prompting whatsoever.Consequences: As a child gets older, roughly 11 or 12 years, they begin to understand the consequences of not practicing. They need to realise that it is totally in their hands and the results of their practice will improve their playing and enjoyment of their instrument. Regular performance opportunities can help with this as they will learn how good preparation results in a good experience.

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Brass or Woodwind Instrument? Which one?

Brass or Woodwind Instrument? Which one?

The Difference Between Brass and Woodwind Instruments

Source: http://thevault.musicarts.com/the-difference-between-brass-and-woodwind-instruments/
In musical orchestra and marching bands, the instruments are divided into different groups based on the sound they make and the voice they play in the band. In every marching band and orchestra there are two distinct groups of wind instruments: brass and woodwind. Although the two are similar in some aspects, there are many characteristics that differentiate the two. From material to playing technique, these are the core differences between brass and woodwind instruments.
Material
While there are many differences between brass and woodwind instruments, the main difference between the two is what they’re composed of. Woodwind instruments, such as clarinets and flutes, are made out of wood or metal, while brass instruments are made exclusively out of metal or brass. Since reeds are absent from brass instruments, there is no trace of wood or reed in brass instruments. Although both types of instruments use a force of air to make a sound, the mouthpiece of woodwind instruments requires a reed while the mouthpiece of brass instruments do not.
Directional vs. Non-Directtional
instruments are non-directional. With non-directional instruments, the direction or volume the instrument produces can’t be controlled. For example, the sound produced by a flute will sound the same standing in front of the flutist as it will if you’re standing behind. Brass instruments, on the other hand, are directional. This difference makes it more difficult to record a woodwind instrument accurately and plays an important role in marching bands, as brass instruments will be heard throughout the stadium while woodwind instruments will primarily be heard on the field.
Technique
While wind and brass instruments both rely on the player to supply the instrument with enough air to make a sound, the technique by which the note is played varies between the two. Brass instruments are lip-vibrated instruments, meaning the different pitches are caused by alterations of both the air flow and lip tension of the player. The difference in pitches of woodwind instruments, on the other hand, is caused when a player blows through a reed to cause air within the resonator to vibrate. The reed sits at the back of the mouthpiece and vibrates against the rest of the mouthpiece to help create the sound.
the back of the mouthpiece and vibrates against the rest of the mouthpiece to help create the sound.
Values
Valves are a crucial part of brass instruments, as they help direct air in and out of the instrument, creating different pitches. Woodwind instruments, on the other hand, rely on the keys located alongside the body of the instrument to vary air flow. This variance in air flow is what creates the different tones and pitches. While this may seem like a major difference, it’s also a similarity, as both the valves and keys rely on the air provided by the player to create sound. Additionally, many brass instruments require more breath and more air to fill the instrument than smaller woodwind instruments.

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Want to Train Your Brain? Forget Apps, learn a musical instrument.

Want to Train Your Brain? Forget Apps, learn a musical instrument.

The multimillion dollar brain training industry is under attack. In October 2014, a group of over 100 eminent neuroscientists and psychologists wrote an open letter warning that “claims promoting brain games are frequently exaggerated and at times misleading”. Earlier this year, industry giant Lumosity was fined $2m, and ordered to refund thousands of customers who were duped by false claims that the company’s products improve general mental abilities and slow the progression of age-related decline in mental abilities. And a recent review examining studies purporting to show the benefits of such products found “little evidence … that training improves improves everyday cognitive performance”.
While brain training games and apps may not live up to their hype, it is well established that certain other activities and lifestyle choices can have neurological benefits that promote overall brain health and may help to keep the mind sharp as we get older. One of these is musical training. Research shows that learning to play a musical instrument is beneficial for children and adults alike, and may even be helpful to patients recovering from brain injuries.
“Music probably does something unique,” explains neuropsychologist Catherine Loveday of the University of Westminster. “It stimulates the brain in a very powerful way, because of our emotional connection with it.”
Playing a musical instrument is a rich and complex experience that involves integrating information from the senses of vision, hearing, and touch, as well as fine movements, and learning to do so can induce long-lasting changes in the brain. Professional musicians are highly skilled performers who spend years training, and they provide a natural laboratory in which neuroscientists can study how such changes – referred to as experience-dependent plasticity – occur across their lifespan.
Changes in Brain Structure
Early brain scanning studies revealed significant differences in brain structure between musicians and non-musicians of the same age. For example, the corpus callosum, a massive bundle of nerve fibres connecting the two sides of the brain, is significantly larger in musicians. The brain areas involved in movement, hearing, and visuo-spatial abilities also appear to be larger in professional keyboard players. And, the area devoted to processing touch sensations from the left hand is increased in violinists.
Early brain scanning studies revealed significant differences in brain structure between musicians and non-musicians of the same age. For example, the corpus callosum, a massive bundle of nerve fibres connecting the two sides of the brain, is significantly larger in musicians. The brain areas involved in movement, hearing, and visuo-spatial abilities also appear to be larger in professional keyboard players. And, the area devoted to processing touch sensations from the left hand is increased in violinists.
These studies compared data from different groups of people at one point in time. As such, they could not determine whether the observed differences were actually caused by musical training, or if existing anatomical differences predispose some to become musicians. But later, longitudinal studies that track people over time have shown that young children who do 14 months of musical training exhibit significant structural(pdf) and functional brain changes(pdf) compared to those who do not.
Together, these studies show that learning to play a musical instrument not only increases grey matter volume in various brain regions, but can also strengthen the long-range connections between them. Other research shows that musical training also enhances verbal memory, spatial reasoning, and literacy skills, such that professional musicians usually outperform non-musicians on these abilities.
Long Lasting Benefits For Musicians
Importantly, the brain scanning studies show that the extent of anatomical change in musicians’ brains is closely related to the age at which musical training began, and the intensity of training. Those who started training at the youngest age showed the largest changes when compared to non-musicians.
Music reaches parts of the brain that other things can’t
Catherine Loveday, University of Westminster
Even short periods of musical training in early childhood can have long-lasting benefits. In one 2013 study, for example, researchers recruited 44 older adults and divided them into three groups based on the level of formal musical training they had received as children. Participants in one group had received no training at all; those in the second had done a little training, defined as between one and three years of lessons; and those in the third had received moderate levels of training (four to 14 years).
The researchers played recordings of complex speech sounds to the participants, and used scalp electrodes to measure the timing of neural responses in a part of the auditory brainstem. As we age, the precision of this timing deteriorates, making it difficult to understand speech, especially in environments with a lot of background noise. Participants who had received moderate amounts of musical training exhibited the fastest neural responses, suggesting that even limited training in childhood can preserve sharp processing of speech sounds and increase resilience to age-related decline in hearing.
More recently, it has become clear that musical training facilitates the rehabilitation of patients recovering from stroke and other forms of brain damage, and some researchers now argue that it might also boost speech processing and learning in children with dyslexia and other language impairments. What’s more, the benefits of musical training seem to persist for many years, or even decades, and the picture that emerges from this all evidence is that learning to play a musical instrument in childhood protects the brain against the development of cognitive impairment and dementia.
Unlike commercial brain training products, which only improve performance on the skills involved, musical training has what psychologists refer to as transfer effects – in other words, learning to play a musical instrument seems to have a far broader effect on the brain and mental function, and improves other abilities that are seemingly unrelated.
“Music reaches parts of the brain that other things can’t,” says Loveday. “It’s a strong cognitive stimulus that grows the brain in a way that nothing else does, and the evidence that musical training enhances things like working memory and language is very robust.”
Learning to play a musical instrument, then, seems to be one of the most effective forms of brain training there is. Musical training can induce various structural and functional changes in the brain, depending on which instrument is being learned, and the intensity of the training regime. It’s an example of how dramatically life-long experience can alter the brain so that it becomes adapted to the idiosyncrasies of its owner’s lifestyle.

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Learning Music Accelerates Brain Development in Children

Learning Music Accelerates Brain Development in Children

Music is one of the greatest joys on Earth. From those who play it to those who listen to it, it is a driving force and accompaniment for so many things in life. Many of us do not need scientific evidence to know it enhances our lives, but to learn of such evidence is surely important, especially for those who could benefit from it most.
Previous research has already found that music can serve as medicine, capable of treating symptoms of schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, and chronic pain. And now initial results of a five-year study by USC neuroscientists have found that music education can speed up brain development in young children, specifically in the areas of the brain where processing sound, language development, speech perception, and reading skills take place.
Published recently in the journal Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, the study, from the Brain and Creativity Institute (BCI) at USC in partnership with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association and the Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA), began in 2012. The researchers wanted to see how music instruction could positively affect children’s social, emotional, and cognitive development.
Their initial results have found that music instruction accelerates the growth of the auditory pathway in the brain, and increases its efficiency.
“We are broadly interested in the impact of music training on cognitive, socio-emotional and brain development of children,” said Assal Habibi, the study’s lead author and a senior research associate at the BCI in the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. “These results reflect that children with music training, compared with the two other comparison groups, were more accurate in processing sound.”
For their work, the neuroscientists monitored brain development and behaviour in a group of 37 children from underprivileged neighbourhoods in Los Angeles. Of the kids, 13 6- and 7-year-olds received music instruction from the Youth Orchestra Los Angeles program at HOLA. They learned how to play instruments in ensembles and groups, and practiced up to seven hours a week.
The researchers compared those 13 children with two other groups, with one consisting of 11 children in a community soccer program, and the other of 13 children not involved in any specific after-school program. Tools like an MRI to observe changes through brain scans, EEG to track electrical activity in the brain, and behaviour testing were all used to monitor changes throughout the study.
The neuroscientists discovered the auditory systems of the children in the music program were maturing faster than in the other children just two years after the study began. The team concluded that the enhanced maturity was the result of an increase in neuroplasticity, which is a physiological change in the brain in response to its environment, which was music instruction in this scenario.
“The auditory system is stimulated by music,” Habibi said. “This system is also engaged in general sound processing that is fundamental to language development, reading skills and successful communication.”
The study also found, after the children completed a task measuring their abilities to distinguish tone, that those in the youth orchestra program better detected pitch changes in the melodies than the other two groups. The children with music training also had smaller P1 potential amplitude, suggesting a faster rate of maturation.
“We observed a decrease in P1 amplitude and latency that was the largest in the music group compared to age-matched control groups after two years of training,” wrote the team. “In addition, focusing just on the (second) year data, the music group showed the smallest amplitude of P1 compared to both the control and sports group, in combination with the accelerated development of the N1 component.”

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Learning Sheet Music – Sheet Music Demystified

Learning Sheet Music – Sheet Music Demystified

This is a great article which explains simply how to read sheet music. Parents who have children who play music and have no idea how they can make sense of the lines, dots and squiggles on their music page, will find this article very useful.
Worth a read. Explains it all very simply. A good and easy read. Surprise your child with how expert you are.
Make a comment. Let us know if you found it useful.
Author | Source: http://www.musicnotes.com/blog/2014/04/11/how-to-read-sheet-music/
How to Read Sheet Music: Channel Your Inner Musician with These Simple Steps!
April 11, 2014/Features Learning Music Lessons & Theory
Have you ever heard a song on the radio and thought, “Hey, it’d be really cool to know how to play that.”? Do you have friends who play musical instruments, and you want to get in on the fun? Do you just want to expand your general artistic knowledge? Well, learning the basics of how to read sheet music can help you achieve all of these, and in a shorter amount of time than you might have thought!
At its very simplest, music is a language just like you’d read aloud from a book. The symbols you’ll see on pages of sheet music have been used for hundreds of years. And they represent the pitch, speed and rhythm of the song they convey, as well as expression and techniques used by a musician to play the piece. Think of the notes as the letters, the measures as the words, the phrases as the sentences and so forth. Learning to read music really does open up a whole new world to explore!
Follow our step-by-step introduction to the language of music below, download your FREE tools at the end of this article, and you’ll be playing along in no time at all.
Step 1: Learn the Basic Symbols of Notation
Music is made up of a variety of symbols, the most basic of which are the staff, the clefs and the notes. All music contains these fundamental components, and in order to learn how to read music, you must first familiarize yourself with these basics.
The Staff
The staff consists of five lines and four spaces. Each of those lines and each of those spaces represents a different letter, which in turn represents a note. Those lines and spaces represent notes named A-G, and the note sequence moves alphabetically up the staff.

Treble Clef
There are two main clefs with which to familiarize yourself; the first is a treble clef. The treble clef has the ornamental letter G on the far left side. The G’s inner swoop encircles the “G” line on the staff. The treble clef notates the higher registers of music, so if your instrument has a higher pitch, such as a flute, violin or saxophone, your sheet music is written in the treble clef. Higher notes on a keyboard also are notated on the treble clef.

We use common mnemonics to remember the note names for the lines and spaces of the treble clef. For lines, we remember EGBDF by the word cue “Every Good Boy Does Fine.” Similarly for the spaces, FACE is just like the word “face.”
Bass Clef
The line between the two bass clef dots is the “F” line on the bass clef staff, and it’s also referred to as the F clef. The bass clef notates the lower registers of music, so if your instrument has a lower pitch, such as a bassoon, tuba or cello, your sheet music is written in the bass clef. Lower notes on your keyboard also are notated in the bass clef.

A common mnemonic to remember note names for the lines of the bass clef is: GBDFA “Good Boys Do Fine Always.” And for the spaces: ACEG, “All Cows Eat Grass.”
Notes
Notes placed on the staff tell us which note letter to play on our instrument and how long to play it. There are three parts of each note, the note head, the stem and the flag.

Every note has a note head, either filled (black) or open (white). Where the note head sits on the staff (either on a line or a space) determines which note you will play. Sometimes, note heads will sit above or below the five lines and four spaces of a staff. In that case, a line is drawn through the note, above the note or below the note head, to indicate the note letter to play, as in the B and C notes above.
The note stem is a thin line that extends either up or down from the note head. The line extends from the right if pointing upward or from the left if pointing downward. The direction of the line doesn’t affect how you play the note, but serves as a way to make the notes easier to read while allowing them to fit neatly on the staff. As a rule, any notes at or above the B line on the staff have downward pointing stems, those notes below the B line have upward pointing stems.
The note flag is a curvy mark to the right of the note stem. Its purpose is to tell you how long to hold a note. We’ll see below how a single flag shortens the note’s duration, while multiple flags can make it shorter still.

Now that you know the parts to each note, we’ll take a closer look at those filled and open note heads discussed above. Whether a note head is filled or open shows us the note’s value, or how long that note should be held. Start with a closed note head with a stem. That’s our quarter note, and it gets one beat. An open note head with a stem is a half note, and it gets two beats. An open note that looks like an “o” without a stem is a whole note, and it gets held for four beats.

There are other ways to extend the length of a note. A dot after the note head, for example, adds another half of that note’s duration to it. So, a half note with a dot would equal a half note and a quarter note; a quarter note with a dot equals a quarter plus an eighth note. A tie may also be used to extend a note. Two notes tied together should be held as long as the value of both of those notes together, and ties are commonly used to signify held notes that cross measures or bars.

The opposite may also happen, we can shorten the amount of time a note should be held, relative to the quarter note. Faster notes are signified with either flags, like the ones discussed above, or withbeams between the notes. Each flag halves the value of a note, so a single flag signifies 1/2 of a quarter note, a double flag halves that to 1/4 of a quarter note, et cetera. Beams do the same, while allowing us to read the music more clearly and keep the notation less cluttered. As you can see, there’s no difference in how you count the eighth and 16th notes above. Follow along with the sheet music for “Alouette” to see how beams organize notes!
But what happens when there isn’t a note taking up each beat? It’s easy, we take a rest! A rest, just like a note, shows us how long it should be held based on its shape. See how whole and quarter rests are used in the song “Here We Go Looby-Loo.”

Step 2: Pick Up the Beat
In order to play music, you need to know its meter, the beat you use when dancing, clapping or tapping your foot along with a song. When reading music, the meter is presented similar to a fraction, with a top number and a bottom number, we call this the song’s time signature. The top number tells you how many beats to a measure, the space of staff in between each vertical line (called a bar). The bottom number tells you the note value for a single beat, the pulse your foot taps along with while listening.

In the example above, the time signature is 4/4, meaning there are 4 beats per bar and that every quarter note gets one beat. Click here to listen to sheet music written in 4/4 time, and try counting along 1,2,3,4 – 1,2,3,4 with the beat numbers above. In the example below, the time signature is 3/4, meaning there are 3 beats per bar and that every quarter note gets one beat. Click here to listen to sheet music written in 3/4 time, try counting the beats, 1,2,3 – 1,2,3.

Let’s look again at the above examples, notice that even though the 4/4 time signature in “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” calls for 4 beats per bar, there aren’t 4 notes in second bar? That’s because you have two quarter notes and one half note, which added together equal 4 beats.
In addition to your note values and time signature, the last piece to feeling the rhythm is knowing your tempo, or beats per minute. Tempo tells you how fast or slow a piece is intended to be played, and often is shown at the top of a piece of sheet music. A tempo of, say 60 BPM (beats per minute) would mean you’d play 60 of the signified notes every minute or a single note every second. Likewise, a tempo of 120 would double the speed at 2 notes every second. You may also see Italian words like “Largo,” “Allegro” or “Presto” at the top of your sheet music, which signify common tempos. Musicians use a tool, called a metronome, to help them keep tempo while practicing a new piece. Click here to see an online metronome tool, and click on the circles next to the BPM values to see how a tempo can speed up and slow down.

Step 3: Play a Melody
Congratulations, you’re almost on your way to reading music! First, let’s look at scales. A scale is made of eight consecutive notes, for example, the C major scale is composed of C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C. The interval between the first note of your C major scale and the last is an example of an octave. The C major scale is very important to practice, since once you have the C scale down, the other major scales will start to fall into place. Each of the notes of a C major scale corresponds with a white key on your keyboard. Here’s how a C major scale looks on a staff and how that corresponds to the keys on your keyboard:

You’ll notice that as the notes ascend the staff, and move to the right on your keyboard, the pitch of the notes gets higher. But, what about the black keys? Musically, whole tones, or whole steps between the note letters, would limit the sounds we’re able to produce on our instruments. Let’s consider the C major scale you just learned to play. The distance between the C and the D keys in your C scale is a whole step, however the distance between the E and the F keys in your C scale is a half step. Do you see the difference? The E and the F keys don’t have a black key in between them, thus they’re just a half step away from one another. Every major scale you’ll play on a keyboard has the same pattern, whole-whole-half-whole-whole-whole-half. There are many other types of scales, each with unique sounds, like minor scales, modal scales and more that you’ll come across later on, but for now let’s focus just on major scales and the major scale pattern. Look at the C major scale again on the keyboard below.

Semitones, or half-steps on the keyboard, allow us to write an infinite variety of sounds into music. Asharp, denoted by the ? symbol, means that note is a semitone (or half step) higher than the note head to its right on sheet music. Conversely, a flat, denoted by a ? symbol, means the note is a semitonelower than the note head to its right. You’ll notice on the keyboard picture and notated staff below, showing each half step between the C and the E notes, that whether you use the sharp or the flat of a note depends on whether you’re moving up or down the keyboard.

There’s one more symbol to learn regarding semitones, and that’s the natural, denoted by a ?. If a note is sharp or flat, that sharp or flat extends throughout the measure, unless there’s a natural symbol. A natural cancels a sharp or flat within a measure or a song. Here’s what playing C to E would look like with natural symbols.
Finally, in order to read music, you’ll need to understand key signatures. You actually already know one key signature, the key of C! The C major scale you learned above was in the key of C. Scales are named after their tonic, the preeminent note within the scale, and the tonic determines what key you play in. You can start a major scale on any note, so long as you follow the whole-whole-half-whole-whole-whole-half pattern. Now, following that pattern in keys other than the key of C will require you to use sharps and flats. Since that’s the case, we place the sharps or flats for your song’s key signature right before the meter, after the clef, on your sheet music. That tells you to maintain those sharps or flats throughout the music, unless of course there’s a natural symbol to override it. You will begin to recognize the key signatures of pieces based on what sharps or flats are shown. Here’s a quick glimpse at some key signatures using sharps and flats:

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How to stop nagging your child to practise their musical instrument

How to stop nagging your child to practise their musical instrument

It’s 4pm on a Thursday, and your child is on the couch with the iPad. You need to leave for the weekly music lesson in half an hour. You can see dust has gathered on the piano (or the flute or the saxophone), and another week has passed with only infrequent and erratic attempts at practice.
Your child claims to want lessons, but doesn’t seem to put in the effort. The prospect of paying another term’s tuition is the last straw. You order your child off the couch and direct them to their instrument.
What ought to be a rewarding activity for your child has become a bone of contention between you. And you dislike the nagging parent you’ve become.
What parents say and do matters
Research confirms the benefits of learning a musical instrument. It develops a life-long skill and offers children a means of enjoyment and self-expression.
Not surprisingly, many parents who can afford the cost willingly spend money to give their children this experience.
But there are real challenges that sit alongside the benefits of learning an instrument. Difficulty in finding time and motivation to practise, frustration over a perceived lack of progress, anxiety about performing in public and unhelpful beliefs about innate talent being more important than practising can make the whole process a misery.
Parent encouragement, though well-intended, can quickly descend into nagging. And the reality of a child learning an instrument at home – the unpolished sounds, the seemingly incessant technical work (scales and arpeggios) – can challenge the family dynamic.
Research into motivation and music education shows what parents say and do is enormously influential in determining the quality of the learning experience for their child. Nagging or bribing a child to practise only makes the activity feel like a chore. Children who are nagged to practise are likely to stop playing as soon as they can make that choice.
So, what can parents do to encourage their children to practise? The following practical tips are drawn from multiple studies conducted by musicians, teachers and educational psychologists.
1. Start young and keep it fun
Most young children enjoy singing and movement. They are also not overly self-conscious or concerned with self-image. While a teenager might baulk at singing or playing an instrument for fear of how their peers might react, younger children freely engage in musical activity.
Regular musical play normalises the act of making music and helps children develop habits that will, in time, underpin regular practice. A good early childhood musical program can help children shift gradually from play-based learning to a more structured learning when they are ready.
It’s vital these experiences are fun. The advice for parents? Join in! Show your child that music is fun by having fun with your child making music.
2. Praise their effort not their ‘talent’
The media generally lauds professional musicians as “talented”. What’s lost in the mythology our culture weaves around these people is that their seemingly effortless mastery of an instrument is in fact the result of much effort and learning.
Praising a child for being talented reinforces a fixed mindset around musical ability. If a child believes people are either talented or not talented, they are likely to view their own struggles with learning music as evidence they aren’t talented.
Parents should praise the effort their child puts into learning their instrument. This recognises that practice makes perfect.
3. Emphasise the long-term benefits of playing
Parent praise has less impact over time on a child’s motivation to practise. Teenagers either develop an internal motivation to continue learning their instrument, or stop.
But a ten-year study of children learning instruments shows children who display medium and long-term commitment to an instrument practice more and demonstrate higher levels of musical achievement.
Children who imagined themselves playing their instrument into adulthood were more likely to be highly motivated.
Parents should encourage your children to see learning an instrument as a useful skill that can bring satisfaction and joy into adult life. It isn’t simply this year’s after-school activity.
4. Encourage appropriate music
Children are often motivated to learn an instrument in response to a growing interest in popular music. But leveraging a child’s desire to replicate the latest Ed Sheeran song as a mechanism for motivation can be a problem.
While popular music can and should be part of any music education, the latest popular music isn’t necessarily fit-for-purpose as a teaching tool. This can result in great harm – ranging from disappointment when the music is beyond the ability of a learner, to very real damage to the voice or fingers.
My own research shows using popular music as a way to get children into music education might meet a market demand, but is not always in children’s best interest. The adult environment that surrounds popular music sits awkwardly with a safe educational environment. Having a seven-year-old sing “Fever When You Kiss Me” strikes the wrong note.
Parents should choose a qualified teacher with a well-articulated teaching philosophy that emphasises gradual learning. Avoid teachers who spruik instant success on Australian Idol and, particularly for younger children, parents should prohibit sexualised repertoire.
Take an interest in the music your child learns. Get to know the names of the pieces they’re learning and ask to hear them.
5. Value your child’s music
Lessons, exams and practice schedules are all very well, but ultimately music should be a shared activity. Don’t always banish your child to their room to practise.
Create an environment where music is a vital part of the household. Encourage your child to perform at family occasions. As they learn, empathise with their struggles and celebrate their triumphs. Never begrudge the money you spend on lessons and never, ever nag.

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3 Things Parents Must Tell Their Children When They Begin a Musical Instrument

3 Things Parents Must Tell Their Children When They Begin a Musical Instrument

By: Tony Mazzocchi
Article originally posted on The Music Parents’ Guide
Hopefully your child will begin a musical instrument through their school music program. If so, when they bring home their instrument for the first time, it is more than just an exciting day…
…It is an opportunity…
…Perhaps one of the greatest opportunities in your child’s life thus far.
Photo: Victoria Chamberlin, victoriachamberlin.com
If you are like me, you want your kid(s) to complete their K-12 education with far more than factual knowledge and an ability to score well on tests. You don’t believe that your child’s success in life depends primarily on cognitive skills — the type of intelligence that is measured on IQ tests and such. You don’t believe that school should be primarily focused on stuffing kids’ brains with as much factual knowledge as possible, but instead is focused on growing skills and mindsets that will last a lifetime. Psychological traits that include
The patience to persist at a tough (and perhaps boring) task;The ability to delay gratification;The curiosity and grit to problem solve;
…just to name just a few.
And the musical instrument in your child’s hand could be the key to learning those skills.
You see, your child didn’t receive an instrument with the expectation that they would become a professional musician, just as they did not receive a math book with the expectation of them becoming a mathematician. But, unlike any other subject, your child has the opportunity to develop some of the most important life skills through learning to play an instrument, and you need to let them know this is the case.
Here are three things parents need to know and be able to express to their child as soon as they begin learning to play a musical instrument:
“You are allowed to fail, and you will become better because of your failures.” There are no red pen marks for missed notes in music the way there are on tests — there is nothing to feel bad about when you play something “wrong” in music. To become skilled at a musical instrument — and to become great at anything — one needs to struggle a little. In your child’s case, they need to sound bad before they sound good; they need to work on things just beyond what they are capable of in order to get better and smarter, and that means they need to make mistakes. There is a small gap between what we all are able to do and where we want to be, and focusing on that gap makes us better learners and better people. Learning a musical instrument allows us to grow from our mistakes.
“Hard works trumps talent every single time.” Practicing a skill over and over, the right way, fires circuits in our brains that solidify that skill. Sure, some people find some skills easier at first than others, but the people who practice that skill daily in order to “burn it” into their brain will always far surpass people who don’t practice enough. Practicing a musical instrument helps children learn the universal truth that hard work trumps talent.
“This is a long-term commitment, and we are going to stick with it.” Studies have shown that students who identified that they would play their instrument for longer than one year outperformed students who only committed to one year of playing by up to 400% — practicing the same amount of time if not less! The ideas and mindsets students bring to their musical instrument study have a direct effect on their success, and it’s the parents’ role to set the tone on the first day by not giving their child an “easy out” to quit. Make the decision to invest in your child’s music education for at least a few years of their schooling and you will see results.
There are not many subjects taught in school that have the potential to give our children the life skills they need to be successful beyond their school lives. Our children can learn how to have grit, motivation, problem-solving skills, flexibility, and character during and after their K-12 schooling — and music is the vehicle to teach these skills.
What if we as parents treated music like any other core subject and expected our children to study it for at least 4 or 5 years? What does “success in school” mean to you and your child?
About the author:
A GRAMMY® nominated music educator, Anthony Mazzocchi has performed as a trombonist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, New Jersey Symphony, San Diego Symphony, San Diego Opera, Riverside Symphony, Key West Symphony, in various Broadway shows and numerous recordings and movie soundtracks.
Tony has served as faculty or as a frequent guest lecturer at The Juilliard School, Manhattan School of Music, New York University, and Mannes College of Music. He has taught students from K-college, and has served as a district Director of Fine and Performing Arts in the South Orange/Maplewood School District. Tony has been a consultant for arts organizations throughout the NY/NJ area.
Tony blogs about how to be a successful music parent at The Music Parent’s Guide, and the book by the same name can be bought here. He has written a method book for music teachers called The Band Director’s Method Book Companion.
Tony is currently Associate Director of the John J. Cali School of Music at Montclair State University in New Jersey. He is also Executive Director of the Kinhaven Summer Music School in Weston, Vermont. Tony is a clinician for Courtois – Paris.

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