The United States is one of the world’s most prolific producers of popular art. The rich cultures and unique backgrounds of all Americans make the country an ideal place for art to flourish, and this diversity has had an obvious influence on music. People in the United States collectively appreciate a huge range of musical styles, but the most popular genres among Americans are the following four.
Rock and roll, or simply “rock,” originated in America in the 1950s, but quickly spread to England afterward. Each of these two countries played an important role in the development of the genre, but both have their own definition of what rock music is. From a general perspective, rock may be best defined as music with a strong beat that uses electric, amplified instruments to play fast-paced songs, though ballads in rock music are also commonplace.
Rock music would not have found the widespread success that it did without the guitar amplifier, then a new invention, as the amplifiers allowed musicians to play their music louder and to larger audiences than ever before. The intense energy and sense of belonging that young rock bands created for the youth of the mid-20th century carried the genre forward through the decades and allowed it to evolve, rather than die out. Some of the most important early musicians to influence the development of rock include Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Jimi Hendrix, who each contributed to the sound and lyrical content of the genre.
R&B, which stands for “rhythm and blues,” and hip-hop music are two styles that were grouped together in the late 20th century to represent one larger genre. R&B was the first of the two to enter the American music scene, and the term was used to describe a complex, melodic sound that appeared in the 1930s in African American communities. Inspired by jazz and gospel, the genre also incorporated elements of blues music, but relied on upbeat tempos and witty lyrics rather than the emotional, call-and-response style singing of the blues masters. Eventually, thanks to performers like Ray Charles, B.B. King, and Sam Cooke, this genre spawned what is now known as soul.
R&B continued to evolve, inspiring different styles within the genre, and eventually became one of many influences in the creation of hip-hop in the 1970s and 80s. Born in African American communities in the Bronx, New York, hip-hop is known for the incorporation of turntables, rapping, break dancing, and spoken rhyme into its songs. Pioneering artists in the genre include DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, the Cold Crush Brothers, and Kurtis Blow.
Unlike the rest of the genres included on this list, pop (short for “popular”) music is not easily defined by its characteristics, because they continually evolve and change with the times. Pop music is a name for a form of music that is purposely commercial, designed specifically to appeal to a mass audience. It is written by professionals who attach their names to the music, and thus stands in stark comparison to folk music, which was traditionally written by unknown musicians and achieved mass popularity in America through widespread performance and word-of-mouth in the early 20th century.
In the late 1800s in America, popular music was the kind of songs found in vaudeville or music halls. Later, rock and soul music would dominate the pop charts, an occurrence which continues to influence the pop music of today. No matter which genre of music has the greatest influence on pop at any given moment, most pop songs have a memorable melody, catchy lyrics, and a chorus that repeats several times. The subject matter of pop songs often focuses on the highs and lows of romantic relationships. Modern examples of pop music include songs from artists like Michael Jackson, Madonna, Adele, and Lady Gaga.
The country genre has a long, rural past—one rooted in the folk traditions of the American South, especially of the Appalachian Mountains. In general, country music encompasses songs made from a simple chord progression and simple, memorable lyrics that tend to follow a storyline. Country music incorporates the sounds of traditional instruments, many of which are stringed, including the banjo, the fiddle, the mandolin, and many different variations of acoustic or steel guitars. Vocalists in this genre also often sing in accented American English, with a “twang” to the voice.
Country music evolved in the homes and gatherings of people from mountain towns long before it was brought to the attention of the public. The first country songs were recorded for larger circulation in the 1920s. Once country hit the radio through broadcasts from programs like the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee, the genre inspired a generation of performers. Some of the earliest and most influential names in country music include the Carter Family, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, and Merle Haggard. Though modern iterations of this style have evolved to incorporate more elements of pop, many artists continue to retain core facets of country music in the lyrical content and vocal style of their songs.
As children enter adolescence, they often have the opportunity to join clubs or participate in new activities that will introduce them to interests that can last a lifetime. Of the school activities that a child can join in on once they reach their high school years, marching band is among the most rewarding—and it gives kids the opportunity to learn many invaluable lessons that will help them grow into well-adjusted adults. Listed below are seven skills and lessons that an adolescent can learn by participating in marching band at school.
Joining marching band means holding oneself accountable for perfecting and memorizing music and drills, and showing up to rehearsals prepared and on time. Those who join marching band must develop self-discipline in order to succeed. They learn to make a commitment and take it seriously, as participation mandates that they put in the requisite effort to make performances sound good and to avoid letting down their peers.
2. Time management
Band practice and performances require a significant amount of a student’s time, and much of it occurs outside of regular school hours. To be in marching band means that students must learn how to manage their time effectively. Not only must they make room for the time-consuming demands of marching band, but they must also balance their schedule to accommodate standard responsibilities like homework and chores. A marching band member’s busy schedule can also teach organizational skills, which are an important part of learning how to keep responsibilities from falling through the cracks.
One of the best things about marching band is that the students who join already have a common interest: music. High school can be a difficult time for adolescents, and having friends who share the same interests can make a significant difference in their levels of happiness. Joining band is a catalyst for friendship, as students are together for long hours, continually working to create a unified sound. Spending a significant amount of time around one another in an effort to create music while traveling to other schools to spread team spirit helps students in band build strong relationships. Many former band students look back and realize that they met lifelong friends through these programs.
Being a part of team that works toward a common goal helps band students to feel a degree of confidence that can often be difficult for teenagers to find. Students who are constantly improving their skills as a musician in a setting where their instrument contributes to a larger objective can give them a sense of personal pride. Additionally, learning to be okay with making mistakes in front of peers and participating in large public performances can help teens overcome inhibitions and self-consciousness, leading to self-esteem that can be applied to other parts of their lives.
Participation in marching band requires teenagers to develop a healthy respect for themselves and for others. For example, band members must learn to give and take constructive criticism respectfully, for the good of the group. When the band leader or a peer tells a student that something about his or her playing style must be changed, the student learns to respectfully accept the criticism, understanding that it is an opportunity to learn, and is not a personal attack. Band members also learn how to be respectful during performances, especially at school games. These adolescents must adhere to a level of professionalism that often requires them to show restraint in instances when they would rather cheer and yell. This shows respect for themselves and for the decorum of their role in generating school spirit.
Band students are exposed to a wide range of new musical styles and skills, many of which are more difficult than any music that they have previously encountered. Learning to play these challenging new pieces of music helps band students learn the value of perseverance, and allows them to understand that learning to play music well is a skill developed through commitment and hard work. This aspect of marching band shows them that not giving up when faced with a difficult task can yield positive results.
Students in marching band quickly learn the value of working with others. Though each person’s contribution is important to the whole of a marching band’s sound, no one musician is more important than another. It differs significantly from the teamwork experienced by those who participate in sports, wherein the primary objective is to work together to take down an opponent. In marching band, the only competition is with the self, and everyone works together as a group to improve over time. Marching band also teaches adolescents to trust others in a team. Teens learn to march and move in unison, trusting that the people around them have practiced and that they won’t run into their peers when their faces are turned a different direction than their feet are moving. In this way, marching band teaches a valuable lesson in learning to rely on other people to achieve a common goal.
There are many reasons why a parent might encourage a child to pursue a musical instrument. Practicing music from a young age can lead to better performance in school, encourage the development of social skills, invoke higher levels of self-esteem, and teach children valuable lessons like patience and cultural awareness.
While the benefits to learning an instrument are many and the process can be stimulating, even the most enthusiastic young musicians may find that practice can sometimes seem less like an exciting challenge and more like a frustrating chore. To inject a little more fun into a child’s music routine, consider the following five tips.
1. Start out small
Young musicians may have a difficult time staying focused for 30 minutes on any task, let alone attempting to master an instrument that they are just becoming familiar with. To fight off boredom, parents should start practice sessions off small, with the first few lessons lasting no more than 10 to 15 minutes each day. As the child progresses and becomes more familiar with the instrument, parents can extend practice durations in small increments, allowing the child to work up to daily practices that last the standard 30 minutes. The point of this approach is to make sure that the lesson ends before the child becomes bored, encouraging him or her to associate music practice with the positive feeling of learning something new and having a good time.
2. Always work toward a goal
One of the most common reasons that new musicians of all ages start to feel unmotivated and bored when learning an instrument is that they do not set goals before practice sessions. The tedious nature of attempting to play through a single song can rob musicianship of its appeal, and the task then becomes one that the child dreads.
To make practice more enjoyable, parents should help children choose goals before every session, such as perfecting a specific, difficult measure of music within a song. To help make this approach entertaining, parents can try using the “three penny” trick to allow the child to keep track of his or her progress during practice. Three pennies are first placed on the left side of the music stand. When the child plays through the difficult measure of music perfectly, he or she then moves one of the pennies to the right side of the stand. The child attempts to play the measure perfectly two additional times, but if at any point he or she makes a mistake, all three of the pennies must be moved back to the left side of the stand. The lesson can be complete when all three pennies have been moved to the right side of the stand, indicating that the measure has been played through without error three times.
3. Incorporate prizes
Using rewards as incentive to accomplish a task is an approach used widely in Western culture, from adult workplaces to children’s classrooms. Reward systems may be applied in the case of music practice as well. While some people see rewards as bribing a child to act a certain way, the use of prizes when a child is learning to play an instrument can improve self-esteem, encourage more effort, and instill greater contentment in the overall process of learning to play. This is best achieved if parents set reasonable, specific goals and abide by consistent rules during the process.
Parents who choose to use a rewards system should consider creating a chart used to account for the number of practices completed or specific music goals achieved. This way, the child can monitor his or her own progress, and learn that rewards come with time and hard work. Examples of good choices for prizes include special privileges like skipping a chore, getting extra time playing video games, picking out a small, inexpensive toy, or enjoying a special occasion such as a sporting event or a day out at the zoo.
4. Take it somewhere new
Adherence to the same routine day in and day out can make any task less enjoyable, and music practice is no exception. A simple way to make time with an instrument more fun for children is to occasionally encourage them to practice in a new space. Consider setting up your child’s music stand and any other necessary supplies in a different part of the house than usual, such as the backyard. The novelty of a new practice space can jumpstart a practice routine that has become monotonous and renew a child’s commitment to learning the instrument.
5. Show interest in their progress
Practice is usually a solo activity, but a parent who takes the time to act as an audience during practice and make encouraging remarks can do much for a child’s self-esteem and confidence. Parents can take this effort a step further by asking their child to demonstrate how to play a note or a chord on an instrument, thus allowing the child to have fun teaching the adult. Being asked for a small lesson reminds children that that even though their progress may be slow, they are still developing a special skill that they can share with others.
Studies have shown that music can have a positive impact on a child’s development as her or she grows, improving skills such as spatial reasoning, literacy, social abilities, and empathy. In addition to encouraging personal development, music also has the potential to create stronger bonds between parent and child. To gain these benefits through musical exploration, consider participating in the following five activities with your child.
Take music lessons together
Learning to play an instrument with your child can be an engaging way to establish a common interest. Your son or daughter’s age and physical dexterity will dictate which instruments he or she is capable of playing in the early years of life. However, once your child reaches the age of 10 or so, he or she will generally be able to take up any instrument.
Because children and adults have different needs when learning to play music, you may not be able to attend the same lessons as your child. However, practicing together at home after separate lessons can create a sense of mutual support, as you’ll both understand the difficulties of working to develop a musical skill. Additionally, playing music together may improve your relationship with your child, as research shows that musicians who play in tandem experience positive feelings toward one another during the performance.
Attend a concert
Bringing your son or daughter to a concert can be an excellent way to foster his or her passion for music while also spending quality time together. There are concerts for literally every genre of music, from classical to R&B and everything in between. It’s your decision when your child is old enough to attend a particular show, but some venues may not allow young kids. Because attending concerts requires a certain level of maturity, taking your child to a performance shows that you trust him or her, and it often creates memories that will last a lifetime.
If you decide to go to a concert as a family, keep in mind that you’ll need to prepare in order to make the experience as safe and enjoyable as possible. Before you go, establish a meeting place in case you and your child are separated in the crowd, go over any rules of behavior, and purchase earplugs to protect your child’s hearing from the loud volume of concert music.
See a musical
If a concert doesn’t interest your child, consider taking him or her to the theater to see a musical production instead. Like concerts, the theater is an adult experience that children can feel excited to be a part of. It’s also an excellent way for you and your child to spend quality time together. As an added benefit, exposure to musicals and live theater in childhood has been shown to improve literary knowledge and increase feelings of empathy and tolerance in children. Classic kid-friendly musicals include Beauty and the Beast, Cats, Annie, The Lion King, and Oliver!, among many others.
It’s important to remember that unlike many concerts, a theater production requires a child to be completely quiet and sit still for a prolonged period of time. To avoid disturbances and complications, be sure to talk to your child ahead of time about what is expected of an audience member. Children should also be well rested and fed before attending a performance.
Toddlers and young kids may be exclusively interested in rhymes and ditties like “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” or songs they hear on TV shows. However, when your child reaches an age when he or she can appreciate music with more nuance, considering sharing your favorite songs with him or her. According to a study published in 2014, listening to music as a family strengthens bonds, can improve the overall wellbeing of family members, and contributes to the development of a collective identity.
Though your child may not take to your preferred artists or genres, showing them music they have never experienced before encourages musical exploration and allows them to begin developing their own musical tastes. As your child grows older and develops independent musical interests, spend time together listening to his or her favorites. You may not enjoy this music as much as your child does, but showing an interest in his or her preferences can strengthen your relationship. Additionally, listening to your child’s preferred artists can help you keep track of the kinds of messages they’re getting from the music they listen to when you’re not around.
Incorporate music into daily life
The best way to experience music with your children is to make it a standard part of everyday life from an early age. Regular exposure to a wide variety of songs can help your child develop connections in the brain that set him or her up for a lifelong appreciation of music and all the benefits it has to offer.
To incorporate music into your family’s daily schedule, put it on at home any time the circumstances allow. Play music while you cook dinner, while you’re doing chores, and even when it’s time for bed. Create a playlist or CD to listen to when you’re in the car together. In every instance, be open about your own love of music to inspire your child to find joy in it as well.
The standard Western-style orchestra was first assembled in Italy around four centuries ago, but today, orchestras are found all around the world. Listed below are six components of orchestras that allow these large groups of musicians to produce the beautiful, harmonious sound they’re known for.
The average professional orchestra employs 40 to 80 musicians, and each section of instruments in the orchestra has its own hierarchy among the players. Violins are divided into two sections—first violin and second violin. The leader of a section is called the principal and is responsible for demonstrating technique for the rest of the musicians in the section. The principal also plays any solos for his or her specific instrument. Principals act as a motivator, mediator, and teacher, and are the point of communication between the conductor and the section.
At the head of all section principals is the orchestra’s concertmaster, a position that is always held by the principal of the first violin section. The concertmaster not only plays all violin solos within a piece, but also makes sure that all instruments are tuned prior to a performance. He or she also ensures that all members of the strings section observe the correct bowings within a piece. This creates the strings sections’ characteristic cohesiveness, and allows all players to play in unison.
The only person in the orchestra higher than the concertmaster is the conductor. Conductors did not have a role in early orchestras, but today all of the United States’ most accomplished philharmonic and symphonic orchestras rely on them to lead. The conductor uses his or her arms and hands to express directions to the players, allowing musicians to know how loudly and quickly to play, as well as when to cease playing. He or she is responsible for selecting and interpreting music for the orchestra, and balances the sound as the piece progresses. The guidance of the conductor allows musicians to work together as a unit in order to create a flawless, unified sound.
The percussion instruments are typically situated at the very back of the orchestra, furthest from the conductor’s podium. The percussion has the widest variety of instruments of the five sections, and consists of any instrument that can be struck by a stick, beater, or the hand. It also includes instruments that must be shaken or rubbed to produce a sound. Standard instruments in this family include the drums, xylophone, timpani, gongs, and cymbals, among others. The role of the percussion in an orchestra is crucial, as this group sets the rhythm for the rest of the musicians to follow.
While the piano, organ, and harpsichord are often considered members of the percussion section in the orchestra due to their ability to provide rhythm to the music, they are more accurately identified as keyboard instruments. While this section is not present in all orchestras, it has become more common to see them onstage with the more traditional instruments in recent years. They are also positioned toward the back, near the percussion section.
Musicians who play brass instruments are usually seated in front of the percussion section. The brass section contains the loudest instruments in the orchestra, including trumpets, horns, tubas, trombones, and bass trombones. The instruments in the brass section may vary depending on the style of music and the interpretation of the conductor. As the name suggests, these instruments are fashioned from brass pipes formed into shapes that produce different sounds when the musician blows into them through a mouthpiece. Because of their capacity for volume and the bright quality of their sound, brass instruments often make ideal solo instruments in upbeat, exultant moments within a composition. It is important that a conductor takes care to correctly lead the brass section within a piece so that its commanding sound does not overpower the others.
The woodwinds section is a diverse body of instruments played by musicians sitting in the middle of the orchestra, in front of the brass section. Flutes, piccolos, oboes, clarinets, bass clarinets, and bassoons are all common woodwind instruments. All produce a pleasant, consistent sound when played together, though each instrument differs in range and pitch. The musicians’ use of breath to play these instruments allows them to create diverse sound effects, including vibrato, staccato, and legato phrasing. Woodwind instruments with a higher pitch, like the flute, most often follow the melody of a piece while the lower-toned woodwinds, like the bassoon, more often play supportive parts that contribute to the harmonies in a song.
The strings section makes up the largest portion of the orchestra, with two or three times more musicians than the other four. However, the strings section generally features just four types of instruments. The strings section sits at the front of the orchestra, with the violins to the conductor’s left, the violas in front, and the cellos and double basses to the right. The violin and the viola produce higher musical tones, while the cello and double bass produce low ones. The members of this section are often responsible for taking on the bulk of the melody within a song. The violin group within the strings section is arguably the most prominent and renowned of all the orchestral instruments, and is featured prominently in orchestral compositions. Apart from the standard four instruments, the strings section on occasion may also feature a harp or guitar.
Music education articles and blogs espouse the benefits of learning to play an instrument at a young age. We know that musicianship aids in brain development, empathy, and the development of social skills, and may set young students up for a lifetime of positive response to music in many forms. What is less publicized is the many ways in which picking up an instrument for the first time later in life can bring joy and excitement to the lives of adults. For those who are thinking about pursuing the dream of learning to play music as an adult, here are seven tips that will help you make the most of the experience.
1. Open your mind and be teachable
After years of developing professional skills and learning life lessons, it can be difficult for some adult beginners to play the role of student again. However, if you want to grow as a musician, you must make sure that you put yourself in a teachable mindset. Seek out an accomplished instructor whose skills are demonstrably better than your own, and allow him or her to guide you through the process of learning to play. Closing your mind to learning from another adult will only hinder your ability to make progress and ultimately, frustrate you further.
2. Know what you enjoy
One advantage that adult beginners have over their younger counterparts is that they have had a much longer period of time to develop personal music tastes. As an adult who wants to learn an instrument, you should go into the hobby knowing what type of music you like, and let that knowledge guide you toward choosing an instrument that really speaks to you. The more that you enjoy an instrument, the more likely you are to follow through with lessons and practice, thus increasing the likelihood you will become proficient. Do yourself a favor and spend more time thoughtfully choosing the type of instrument that you want to play and less time cycling through different options just to find one you think you should play.
3. Apply self-discipline to your practice
Another advantage that adult beginners have over young beginners is that as a whole, adults have a more developed sense of self-discipline, which allows them to persevere independently though difficult periods of instruction. Make sure to remember the value of self-discipline if you reach a point in your lessons where you are struggling to improve and feel tempted to give up. Hold yourself accountable for routine practices and know that, with enough practice, you are capable of success. Self-discipline will also be important in your ability to make time in your schedule for practice alongside the demands of work, family, and social life.
4. Set realistic goals
While certain beginners may have a more natural ability to play than others, it’s important for all adults to pursue a new instrument with a realistic goal in mind. Go into the process of learning an instrument knowing that the goal will take ample time and effort, and even then you should not expect to become a virtuoso. The more flexible you are about your goals, the more likely you are to be satisfied with the progress that you make, and the more enjoyable that learning an instrument will be.
5. Understand the necessity of patience
In conjunction with setting realistic goals, it’s important for adult beginning musicians to never underestimate the role that patience plays in the process of learning music. It’s important to remember that fundamentals are not beneath you as an adult learner. People of all ages need a strong foundation on which to build their musical proficiency. Additionally, recognize that there is no way to speed up the process of learning, and don’t feel defeated if your progress is not moving along as quickly as you would like. Don’t worry about struggling with concepts, and don’t give in to fear of failure. Give yourself time to grow into your abilities, and celebrate every musical milestone of your success along the way.
6. Find likeminded people to practice with
Children often learn instruments in group settings, and the community element of that experience can have a big impact on their enjoyment of the process and the development of new skills. When you’ve practiced enough to feel comfortable with your basic abilities as a musician, consider seeking out other amateur adults in group music workshops or local jam sessions to further your abilities. Playing with others not only teaches you the nuances of working together as a group to produce a sound, but it also can provide a reassuring sense of community and an opportunity to make new friends.
7. Remember that you’re never too old to learn
Never think that you are too old to pick up an instrument for the first time. While music may be easier for a child to learn in some ways, there are many qualities exclusive to the adult set that make pursuit of an instrument much simpler. As an adult, you are much more likely to understand abstract concepts, more likely to stay committed to learning an instrument, and more likely to truly appreciate the skill, because no one is forcing you to learn. Stay focused and enjoy the process without giving your age a second a thought.
No matter what sparks your initial interest in playing music, making the decision to take up an instrument can be a rewarding experience that comes with many personal benefits. To take advantage of everything that musicianship has to offer, you must make sure to persevere through the more difficult aspects of practice. Listed below are four common reasons that can cause you to give up on learning before you’ve truly developed a musical talent, as well as tricks to help you avoid these pitfalls.
1. Choosing the wrong instrument
Choosing the wrong instrument is one of the most surefire ways to diminish the likelihood that you will follow through on your musical goals. It is unwise to select an instrument simply because it is accessible, seems simple, or is one that a friend plays. These reasons are not likely to encourage long-term pursuit of the goal.
Instead, choose an instrument used by players in the genres of music you enjoy. With an appreciation for a musical style at the root of your decision, it’s also important to keep other factors in mind, such as whether you want to play with other people or whether you want to sing while you play. If you’re social and would like to eventually be able to play in a group, consider accompaniment instruments like the bass, mandolin, or violin. If you prefer to play solo, consider an instrument that can carry a song independently such as acoustic guitar or piano. These two instruments will also serve you well if you want to sing along with your playing, as they work as standalone and supportive instruments to accompany a voice.
2. Setting your expectations too high
Setting goals is an important part of learning to play an instrument. However, setting your goals and expectations too high may result in disappointment, and may ultimately lead you to give up the practice. Assuming that you will be able to play an instrument well, quickly, and without ample practice will frustrate you when the reality of the process sets in, and it can lessen the enthusiasm you feel for playing your instrument.
To prevent this kind of dissatisfaction, set smaller, achievable goals, such as learning a scale over the course of a few weeks instead of expecting to master it in a day. Understand that developing an ability to play music takes time and dedication, and that your work in learning to practice may not immediately seem as though it is paying off. You need plenty of patience and regular, efficient practice if you want to become adept at playing an instrument; talent can’t be developed otherwise. Work toward small goals and appreciate each achievement you make along the way, focusing on the long-term payoff of diligent practice.
3. Studying with the wrong music teacher
Though many people attempt to teach themselves through books or online videos, having a music teacher comes with advantages that other instructional resources do not offer. If you do choose to attend lessons with a music teacher, keep in mind that no two instructors are alike, and he or she should be the right fit for your learning style. Studying with the wrong teacher can lead to discontentment with your lessons and less desire to practice, which may threaten your commitment to mastering an instrument.
Online resources like www.takelessons.com will allow you to browse piano teachers near you and read more about their experience. Recommendations for piano teachers can also often be found at your local music store. If you begin lessons with one teacher and find that he or she does not provide enough encouragement or support to meet your personal needs, consider looking for a new teacher. A little bit of encouragement can go a long way toward helping a new music student make progress, and having a positive experience during your lessons will make you more inclined to enjoy learning and persevering through the difficult parts of practicing music.
4. Selecting an instrument in poor condition
If the instrument that you buy or rent to practice on is not of a reasonable caliber and condition, you will not enjoy learning to play. Cheaply made instruments do not produce a high-quality sound and are often much more difficult to play than well-made ones. Likewise, a well-made instrument that has not been taken care of or has suffered extensive wear may not function the way it was meant to, thus hindering your ability to learn on it.
If you are serious about learning to play, consider making an investment in an instrument of good quality. Doing so will spare you the frustrations that accompany the purchase of an inexpensive one, which often discourages players from wanting to practice and may lead to abandonment of the art. Practicing an instrument for the first time is already a challenging process, and beginners don’t need the extra burden of learning to play on a subpar instrument to further complicate the routine.
Although the popularity of classical music has declined among the general population in recent generations, its profound influence on all genres of modern music is undeniable. In fact, much of today’s music incorporates stylistic elements of composers who broke barriers and set musical trends far ahead of their time.
To better understand the impact of classical music, music fans should learn about the following four men considered to be among the most timeless and influential composers in history, along with the contributions they made that drove the progression of music forward:
1. Johann Sebastian Bach
A German composer in the baroque style, J. S. Bach was known in his own time for his abilities as a harpsichordist, an organist, and as an organ repair specialist. Today, however, he is considered by many to be the greatest composer of all time. Though his contemporaries considered his pieces to be slightly outdated, later composers such as Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Mahler, and Schumann acknowledged his genius and drew inspiration from his work.
Part of J. S. Bach’s fame is due to his profound exploration of the baroque style. His compositions incorporated more notes, deeper harmonies, and more advanced technical command than any composer up to that point. He was also very prolific, writing more than 1100 works. His best-known pieces include Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, Arioso, and the Brandenburg Concertos.
2. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Mozart was an Austrian child prodigy who began studying music at age 3. By age 6, he was composing his own pieces on the harpsicord and touring to perform them around Europe. In addition to the harpsicord, the young Mozart played the organ, viola, and piano. He was famous in his own time for the dramatic complexity of his work as well as his mastery of every musical style, including symphony, concerto, chamber music, and opera.
Like Bach, Mozart stretched the limits of the musical style of his time and brought enriched melodies, harmonic clarity, and perfect form to the art in a way that no previous composer had. In his operas especially, Mozart was able to conjure a depth of emotion in music using elements like tension and shifting key centers. Of his more than 600 works, some of his most famous are Requiem, Symphony No. 40, and the opera The Magic Flute.
3. Ludwig van Beethoven
The compositions of Ludwig van Beethoven mark a turning point in the classical style. In his work, Beethoven expressed a fierce originality and wrote music that met his own standards, rather than those of patrons, wealthy courts, or religious entities. His pieces pushed through boundaries set by standard classical form and played a significant role in ushering in the new age of romantic classical music, which was powerfully emotional and rejected the rigid orderliness of earlier iterations within the genre. His greatness is amplified by the fact that he continued to compose music despite a condition that caused his hearing to deteriorate drastically during the last three decades of his life.
Beethoven created lengthy compositions that were louder and more dramatic than anything previously written. His piano concertos and sonatas, for example, broke new ground, taking full advantage of the instrument’s newly expanded keyboard. His works include some of the most iconic classical music of all time, including the Fifth Symphony, Sonata No. 14 (known as Moonlight Sonata), and Bagatelle No. 25 (known as Für Elise).
4. Frederic Chopin
Born in the early 19th century to a middle-class family in Poland, Frederic Chopin demonstrated his virtuosity early, playing piano adeptly without any formal lessons as a child. When he composed and published his first piece at the age of 7, he drew comparisons to Mozart and would later receive private music lessons from Polish composer Joseph Elsner before attending the instructor’s Warsaw Conservatory. There, Elsner encouraged Chopin to reject traditional playing patterns in favor of pursuing his own original style.
Unlike the composers mentioned above, Chopin was singularly devoted to the pursuit of piano, and while he created the majority of his works for solo piano, he also created a number of concertos and sonatas. His legendary improvisational style was simultaneously tender and frantic, with his feet appearing to constantly be in motion while playing. In fact, he is credited with the first consistent use of half and quarter pedaling.
Chopin’s complex harmonic methods and poignantly reflective melodies influenced many late 19th- and 20th-century composers. Some of his most famous works are Nocturne in E-flat major, Funeral March (also known as Prelude in C minor), and Revolutionary Etude.
Children who study music from a young age are poised to gain many benefits from the experience, including better language development, improved spatial-temporal skills, and higher test scores. If your child expresses an interest in music, you can help him or her develop a stronger curiosity and love for the subject using these helpful tips:
1. Expose your child to music from a young age.
By making music part of daily life, parents can significantly influence their child’s ability to appreciate all that music has to offer. Playing music for children in the car, singing with them, and giving them the opportunity to watch musical television shows are all excellent ways to introduce music in a fun and stimulating way. Parents can also make early music discovery an adventure by working with their children to create musical instruments from ordinary household items like pots, pans, pans, and spoons, or by going to the library to check out CDs with kid-friendly songs.
2. Make instruments readily available at home.
Kids may also become excited about pursuing music if they are free to explore a variety of instruments in their home. Therefore, parents should leave an instrument, like a guitar or drum, on display where their child can easily pick it up. A piano can be especially beneficial for early music exposure at home, as children can generally begin to experiment with the instrument once they are physically big enough to reach the keys and develop the hand dexterity to push them down.
3. Look into private music lessons.
If a child shows a specific interest in music, his or her parents should consider enlisting the help of a professional to foster that passion. While a teacher’s qualifications are important, his or her ability to interact positively with a child on a personal level is vital. To find a music teacher who specializes in instructing kids, parents should consider soliciting recommendations, holding interviews, and attending recitals held by prospective teachers to determine whether or not the instructor will be a good fit for their son or daughter.
4. Give your child a special practice space.
Children who commit to an instrument may be more motivated to practice if they have a designated space in which to do so. Ideally, the practice space should be situated in a quiet, organized area where siblings, television, and other distractions cannot intrude. It is also a good idea to equip the practice space with pencils, music stands, paper, and other tools that young music students might need.
5. Incorporate practice into your child’s daily routine.
To encourage musical development, parents should make practice part of their child’s daily schedule. Parents can make this time more appealing by scheduling pleasurable activities around the practice session. For example, kids could enjoy snack time before practice and play time afterwards.
6. Be supportive under all circumstances.
Parents should always visibly support their child’s efforts regardless of his or her level of musical ability. For example, if a child wants to showcase a newly developed talent or practice a song, parents need to devote their attention to the performance and make honest, encouraging remarks. It can also be helpful for parents to regularly ask about how their children’s lessons are progressing and check in with them at regular intervals about their interest in music.
Additionally, when a young music student reaches a milestone such as memorizing a new song or performing in a recital, parents should find a way to celebrate their child’s accomplishment. Doing so may help children stay motivated to continue their studies when the lessons become challenging.
7. Don’t try to control your child’s musical progress.
Parents who see true musical potential in their children may be tempted to force them to practice longer hours or study an instrument that doesn’t interest them. However, experts suggest that it is better in the long term to let a child’s talents develop naturally, and most recommend that parents support their child’s decision if he or she wishes to switch instruments or focus on an activity outside of music. Creating an understanding environment where a child feels comfortable pursuing his or her own individual interests is ultimately better for the child’s healthy development.
Smartphone and tablet applications are playing an increasingly significant role in the modern classroom. The technology allows students to learn in an interactive way that differs drastically from the traditional methods of studying textbooks and listening to lectures. As with many of the standard school subjects, children can learn music though quality apps. Listed below are six excellent smartphone and tablet apps that teach kids about music.
Great for ages 4 and up, MiniPiano is available on both the Android and iPhone, as well as the iPad and iPod Touch. This app converts the device’s screen into a virtual touch piano, with 128 different midi instrument sounds for the user to choose from. Depending on the screen size of their device, children may be able to use five to 10 fingers at a time to play a song. Tunes created within the app can be recorded and exported as a WAC or AAC file or used as a ringtone. Overall, MiniPiano is a simple app for learners of all ages to navigate and encourages students to experiment with notes and simple songs.
2. Crayola DJ
Crayola DJ gives children the ability to mix their own music on an interface that resembles a colorfully designed, kid-friendly DJ setup. By following a simple tutorial, children learn to use 90 different musical tracks in five genres of music to create their own songs. Eight additional buttons provide DJ effects like tempo sliders, crossfaders, and other sounds to add to a child’s mixes. Users can also place their fingers on the app’s turntables to scratch while their songs are playing.
In addition, Crayola DJ offers a game mode where children can DJ in front of a virtual crowd to earn points. The app is designed for children between the ages of 6 and 10 and is available on both Android and Apple products. Crayola DJ is a winner of the Parents’ Choice Fun Stuff Award and was given a seal of approval by the National Parenting Center.
Featuring an intuitive, wordless user interface, Loopimal relies on animations of animals like birds, sloths, octopi, and pigs to teach kids aged 4 and up about music composition, melody, and rhythm. By rearranging a sequence of shapes below an animal’s picture, children can create loops of musical tones and make the animals dance. Multiple animals and their loops can be grouped together to create multi-instrumental songs. There are no right or wrong answers in Loopimal, and the app is meant to encourage creativity and musical experimentation. All music within the app is played in the key of C-major. Loopimal is compatible with Apple products.
4. JoyTunes Recorder Master
JoyTunes Recorder Master is a fun game with an interactive component that goes beyond the screen. Taking advantage of the fact that many kids are taught to play the recorder in school, the app requires kids to play their instrument to control the game. Different stages within the game require students to practice different techniques and skills on their recorder, including timing, higher-lower tones, finger placement, and breath control, in order to complete levels. The app features more than 100 levels and also includes an in-app virtual recorder that children can play if they don’t have access to a real recorder of their own.
5. Music with Grandma
Music with Grandma invites children to explore a broad range of musical education topics through games, educational videos, and interactive virtual instruments. Guided by the Grandma character, the user works their way through seven different games that teach different music skills. The games include activities like matching a sound to the instrument, connecting a maze of musical notations, and even a “find the note” game that teaches kids to identify notes on a music staff. Music with Grandma was designed for young musicians aged 6 and up, and requires some literacy in order to benefit from the more educational content. However, younger kids can easily play along with some support from a parent.
6. Monster Chords
Monster Chords is meant for children interested in learning to play the guitar or ukulele. Like JoyTunes Master Recorder, Monster Chords requires a child to play his or her instrument in order to interact with the app. It’s designed to make practice more enjoyable through games. Throughout the app’s 30 levels, children attempt to lure shy, friendly monsters out of a dark forest by playing chords in time with the app’s music. When the child plays the right chord, the monsters move closer to a campfire, while mistakes cause the monsters to retreat back into the forest. Songs that Monster Chords users learn to play include familiar classics like “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and “London Bridge Is Falling Down,” along with some of the app’s more modern, original compositions. The game is available for both the iPhone and iPad for free in the app store, though parents must pay a monthly fee to unlock the higher levels.