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Teaching music is not enough

We learn to sing and play instruments through gradual development, habituation, and integration of a sophisticated collection of skills. I truly believe that the mark of a great teacher is not how quickly they “deliver the concepts,” but how elegantly they help each student lay the groundwork for a stellar, balanced technique and then continue to expand their abilities. This requires not only pedagogical knowledge and skill, but also a deep appreciation for each student’s learning process and the ability to empathize with their experiences throughout their development.

Just like with any experience, with private music study, you’ll get the same amount of value out of it as effort and passion you put into it. It’s an experience that we create together, but the INSTRUCTORS are the ones responsible for setting the tone.

When deciding exactly what that tone would be at Music Junkie Studios, I started by deciding and remembering what it feels like to be on the receiving end of really, reaaally good instruction. 

I feel seen. The teacher gets me and understands my aspirations, my learning style, and my concerns and anxieties.

I feel heard. They understand my instrument, what I can and can’t do with it, and what I’d like to be able to do better.

I feel encouraged. They genuinely care that I achieve my desires and they believe that I can. They hang in there with me when challenges arise.

I feel safe. I have the freedom to make ugly noises, make mistakes, and expose my weaknesses- because I can trust the teacher to respond with empathy rather than judgment. The teacher has earned my trust, so I am willing to try whatever they suggest even when it feels risky or doesn’t make sense to me at first.

I feel supported. The teacher is the one steering the session, but they’re responsive to my priorities and questions and are really interested in my observations.

It begins in the studio. Our studio. When we are intentional about showing our students kindness and help them to feel supported and seen, we send a message that their voice, what they have to say, who they fundamentally are, matters. Whether or not they go on to pursue or have a career in music, that is perhaps the most important lesson any of us can learn.

Benefits of Singing to Young Children

Lets be honest, we all sing to our babies, whether we can carry a tune or not. Lullabies, anthem’s, love songs, and tunes we seem surprised that we remember. I fondly remember singing Sweet Child O Mine by Guns n Roses soft and sweet in my babies ear. I asked students in the studio if they remember certain tunes hummed or sang sweetly to them when they were young. I also asked parents what they would sing to their babies. I got some great answers on both sides of that fence. From parents, I received such answers as “I sang Lyle Lovett”, or “Anything by Bob Marley”. Students could recall songs from The Beatles, Michael Jackson, Prince, and other songs far from lullabies.

Have you ever wondered if your baby could respond, what would they say? Hey, I remember that song or my mom always sings the same thing!

Well, believe it or not, lots of research has gone into this very subject. Does your baby respond to music? Or more specifically, can your baby remember the tune being sung to them, and by whom?

Dr. Samuel Mehr (when asked what song he sang his child was Paul Simon’s American Tune),  is a research associate in the Dept. of Psychology at Harvard where he directs the music lab. He has done extensive research into the effects of music on babies.

A study he conducted with five-month-old babies and parents who sing the same song to them for a week or two show that those babies can remember that melody eight months later. Even if the same tune and rhythm are presented by someone other than the parent, the baby can still recognize the melody.

In a different study, where he tested babies from seven to ten months old, studies showed that the infants will listen to recorded singing for up to nine minutes. That is twice as long as the infants would listen to recorded speech.

He has also shown that music used in repetition has proven to soothe babies. It has also shown that babies will relate to those same melodies and in turn, start to comfort and self-soothe.

One of Dr. Mehr’s theories is singing communicates to the infant that a familiar grown-up, like a parent or grandparent, is paying attention to them. So when the baby hears the familiar tune being presented by a familiar voice, brings comfort, especially to new babies.

Singing to children, as everyone in the world, in every culture seems to do, is one of the most meaningful activities we share with our little ones. So it doesn’t matter if you cannot carry a tune, or are a perfect tenor. Babies relate singing and music to familiar, loving, comfort, and someone is there for them.

Teach Yourself Apps VS One-on-One Lessons

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Technology is booming. Especially in the area of “teach yourself” apps. From music composition, to how to play an instrument, the market is full of self-help apps. But do these apps truly teach you properly to learn? We are firm believers in the one-on-one lessons approach. As we do live in the modern world, we do realize that there are apps out there that are great tools for teaching and learning, but there are also so many ways to make honest mistakes without an instructor looking on.

So let’s weigh the pros and cons. This blog will touch on some of the top apps on the market today. It will also explain some teacher’s opinions on why the one-on-one lesson experience is a better way to go.

Music Composition Apps.

  1. Noteflight. With Noteflight, you can compose and record audio into scores, which makes this app useful for teachers in the classroom. It is easy for beginners and high-end enough for professional use. Noteflight Premium offers a private website for communication and collaboration, activity templates, perform mode for listening and play along. Noteflight can be utilized for desktops, laptops, and tablets. Also live recording for Mac, PC, and Chromebooks. It has optional content for libraries for a band, guitar, choir, orchestra, piano, and pop ensemble.
  2. Scorecloud is a software service and web app for creating, storing, and sharing music notation for Mac OS, Microsoft Windows, iPhone, and iPad.  This app comes in two varieties Scorecloud Studio and Scorecloud Express. The software is available for free, but adds a watermark when printing. It also does not allow saving or exporting without subscribing to the pro level. Scorecloud is being marketed as “the only service that offers the capability to record, transcribe, transform it into sheet music, and share online”. Scorecloud free allows you to create sheet music from playing. It can also sync across all devices.

Teach Yourself Musical Instrument Apps.

  1. Uberchord is a “teach yourself guitar” app designed for Apple. Uberchord offers personal progress statistics, listens to you play and can adapt to your skill level. It can teach strumming and rhythm patterns with a built-in interactive trainer. It is also equipped with a song trainer that teaches a tune step by step. Also offers reward points that can be used to select more music. Think guitar hero type instruction.
  2. Simply Piano was chosen as one of the best iPhone apps in 2016. It works with any piano or keyboard and is suitable for all ages. If you do not own a piano, they offer Touch Courses with a 3D touch that turns your device into an on-screen keyboard.

With teach yourself apps, it is completely at your disposal. What is designed as a matter of convenience, constructed for use when you want it. Having something made so simple, can also be a downfall. Learning to play an instrument, or write and read music does not come easy. Dedication, repetition, and steady practice, just to name a few are a necessity. Having something simplified isn’t always in your best interest. For example, on-screen keyboards are convenient, but nowhere near the actual size or sensation of playing a real keyboard or piano. This can disturb the entire process of learning specific coordination and dexterity necessary for intermediate playing. On the other hand, with one-on-one lessons, you have a REAL INSTRUMENT AND an instructor- a human being, not an app teaching you tools that are vital to any musician.  Discipline, technique, by someone who takes a personal interest in you and your musical goals and your willingness to learn.

With one-on-one lessons, you have an instructor. A professionally trained teacher who can show and teach things an app never could. Personal contact with an educated individual who takes his or her profession seriously. They also take seriously the fact that you are getting the most and learning all sides and aspects of your lessons. I approached two of our instructors to get their perspective. The consensus that music is a human emotion, a personal relationship between you and that emotion. It was also noted that apps cannot teach fundamental basics or how to interact with other musicians. Instructors and teachers are not solely there to offer information and knowledge, and they do not promote insularity and lack of social interaction. Simply put, lessons provide the personal touch that any app does not have. There are however a few apps that are a benefit to their profession.

Instrument tuner apps and metronome apps are low priced, user-friendly apps that aid in a lesson plan. The Tonal Energy Tuner is $3.99 on The App Store and Google. Supports Android apps 4.3 and above. They do have new features not available on Android yet. Tunable is a chromatic tuner and metronome that is equipped with tuning history display. Compatible with most apple and iPhones 5 and up. $3.99 in Apple, Google, and Amazon App stores.

Check out a more complete list of instructor-approved learning aids here.

 

 

 

Benefits of Arts and Music in School

I would teach children music, physics, and philosophy, but most importantly music. For the patterns in music and all the arts are the keys to learning – Plato

Knowing first hand the benefits of music in our school system, this blog will focus on the importance of arts and music education.

In elementary school, about once a week the music teachers from the local high school would come to our class. They always had a musical instrument to show and play for us. In fifth grade those teachers came in and tested all the fifth graders- It was called a pitch test. We wore headphones and listened to different sounds. We would make a mark to signify which pitch was higher or lower. Music education opened so many doors for me. At ten years old, I was so painfully shy and afraid of everything. Music helped me express myself, helped me relate to others, and since I was an only child, I felt was really great. Music helped me learn what healthy competition was all about. I also learned thru practice, and listening to my music teacher that the sky was the limit.

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Arts and music education is very important in the public and private school settings. Statistics show that learning a musical instrument early in life, helps train a young mind using both sides of the brain. Musical training helps speech and gives the young mind the necessary tools to aid in reasoning. Student musicians also learn to stimulate memory thru reading and memorizing sheet music. Practicing is secondary for budding musicians. Students learn how to improve their music abilities by practicing. Just as learning sports develop hand to eye coordination, so does music education.  Finger positions, hand movements, memorizing techniques, help a budding music student utilize hand to eye coordination. Music involves more than a voice and correct fingering technique, musicians are trained early on to use different skill sets often at the same time.

A study published in the Northwestern review suggests that neural activity made during musical training prime the brain for other aspects of human communication. The brain cannot process all of the sensory info that is in the world. It is stated that playing a musical instrument conditions the brain to choose what is relevant in musical sounds.

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Children love music because it’s often times their first introduction to self-expression. As parents who know the importance of music education, how do we introduce and develop musical interest in our children?  Try to remember when you where a kid. How did music make you feel? We can start by encouraging our children to sing along, dance, and express themselves. Dance and sing along with them. Sing anything with them- A commercial jingle, a cartoon opener, or anything on the radio. Expose them to a variety of music. Let them experience the vast array of musical styles the world has to offer. We think you’re in the right place.

 

Overcoming Performance Anxiety

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Most of us have experienced anxiety in our everyday lives.  Each person experiences anxiety on different levels. This blog will explore the levels of anxiety, and some simple techniques to help overcome performance anxiety.

Before a performance, even the most accomplished performers have experienced it. There are varying degrees of anxiety. From the sweaty palms, butterflies in the stomach, and excessive worrying, to the restlessness and insomnia, to the constant worrying about your anxiety. It can become a minor inconvenience to completely debilitating.

Well never fear! There are several simple ways to help you deal with and manage your anxiety. Dr. Travis Baird is a performance coach and musician health specialist. He holds degrees from Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University, University of South Carolina, and the University of Texas at Arlington. He is also a registered yoga instructor and personal trainer. He had also performed musically all around the world. Dr. Baird has developed a 4 step routine to help you overcome your performance anxiety.

  1. Center your focus and set your intention. Before your pre-performance warm up, take a couple of minutes to center your focus. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Slow deep breaths, inhale and exhale through the nose. Repeat for about 1 minute. Set your intention regarding your performance. Affirm your commitment to giving your best performance.
  2. Water and snacks. Staying hydrated and healthy during a performance is key. Bottled water, and a healthy snack, such as a banana, granola bar, or almonds.
  3. Warm up. you not only warm up with your instrument, you also need to warm up your body and your mind. Careful not to overdo, save your energy for your performance.
  4. Re-focus and embrace the spotlight. Let go of distracting thoughts and center and focus on your performance

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Above all, remember that music performance is not about perfection, things happen, one of the most exciting elements of a live performance.

Something all performers encounter in the course of their careers is negative thinking. As humans, we all have that inner critic. As musicians, we train ourselves to hear any tiny flaw in our performance. Dr. Baird has devised three easy steps for musicians to help with that nagging inner critic. He states that we need to switch from negative criticism to constructive awareness.

  1. When you are bogged down with the negative thoughts, take a step back and objectively view your musical abilities. Let go of the emphasis on errors, and believe in your ability to improve.
  2. Listen to your thoughts. You usually do not view your thoughts as negative. But you could be second-guessing your ability and not even realize it. Try switching from negative thoughts such as, I am bad at this, or I will never get this. Try I need to work on this, or I am improving with a little more practice, I got this!
  3. Inspiration. The next to time you are listening to music, whether it is your playing, or someone else’s, focus on your thoughts. Are they negative, or constructive? Are they helpful or hurtful? You may be robbing yourself of the enjoyment of the actual music. Try some healthy, positive experiences, in music and other areas. Reading a good book, seeing a play, or enjoying nature. Positive inspiration, in other areas as well as with your music, is key.

As in all aspects, diligence, and practice are great and healthy ways to stay motivated and positive in your endeavors.

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