While many people around the world will take music lessons at some point, far fewer pursue an instrument to the point of becoming highly proficient. Those who do choose to make music a significant part of their lives work hard to the meet their goal. Here are eight habits proficient musicians don’t do.
1. They don’t get discouraged easily
Learning to play a new instrument can leave people feeling frustrated when progress seems slow or a piece of music is particularly complicated. However, people who become proficient musicians always find a way to push through the difficulties that often accompany the process of mastering an instrument. Great musicians recognize that playing well requires determination, and they don’t give up on the art form when they encounter adversity, choosing instead to see it as an opportunity for growth.
2. They aren’t lazy about their approach to learning music
People who become great musicians know that proficiency does not come without hard work, and they don’t expect to find a shortcut to greatness. Proficient musicians recognize that plenty of practice is the only way that they can learn to play an instrument well, and they are purposeful when they go about it. To become a talented musician, great players set realistic, achievable goals for their practice sessions rather than lazily running through scales or idly playing through whole songs.
3. They don’t hate to practice
In addition to practicing often and purposefully, the best musicians also find enjoyment in the process of practice. For great musicians, practice isn’t seen as a chore or merely another task to be completed, but instead as a positive, personal time that they are dedicating to an activity that they like. To be a truly brilliant player, a person must genuinely love the art of music, which makes practice less of a forced task and more of a pleasant, therapeutic one.
4. They don’t forget the importance of humility
No matter how proficient great musicians become, they remember that there are always new things that they can learn from others. The best musicians recognize and respect that other musicians may have something to teach them, and they remain open to gaining new skills from players who are more experienced than they are or who play in a style that is different from their own. Humility is a crucial part of being a great musician, and those who remain humble about their abilities allow themselves to be open to the development of a more diverse set of musical skills.
5. They don’t see high-quality instruments as a wasteful investment
While beginning musicians can start out by practicing with an instrument of generic quality, musicians who become highly proficient recognize the benefits of investing in a high-quality instrument. Instruments that meet high standards hold tune better, are easier to play, and produce better sounds than their cheaper counterparts. Owning a quality instrument also allows a musician to perform to the best of his or her ability. Additionally, great musicians dedicate effort into the care and keeping of their instruments in order to keep them in prime playing condition.
6. They don’t try to replicate what others are doing
Great musicians don’t aspire to play exactly like everyone else. Instead, they develop their abilities well enough to discover their own unique style and aim to set themselves apart from others. Combining skill and creativity can yield the kind of music that people are enthusiastic about, and it allows a musician to take his or her work from uniformly good to outstanding.
7. They don’t take criticism personally
To be a great musician, one must have a thick skin. The best players do not take constructive criticism personally and find value in the opinions and advice of professionals. Musicians who cannot handle criticism are limited to their own subjective view of their abilities, and will never be able to see their music from a well-rounded perspective. Rejecting constructive criticism can prevent musicians from improving their craft, something that the greatest players always strive to do.
8. They don’t take bad advice to heart
Just as important as knowing when to listen to criticism is knowing when to ignore it. While some suggestions will have merit and allow a good musician to become even better, others rooted in personal opinions will do nothing to improve a musician’s abilities. Great musicians are masters of separating the good advice from the bad and ignoring critics who want to tear them down rather than build them up. The world would be missing the music of some of history’s most beloved performers if those who were rejected for their style, like Elvis Presley, Lady Gaga, and the Beatles, had simply given up.
There are few better things parents can do for their children than to spend quality time with them, and a concert is an event perfect for the whole family. For children who have never attended a concert before, the experience of a first live show can create memories that last a lifetime. Parents who want to make their child’s first concert experience a positive one should consider the following helpful tips.
Before the Concert
1. Make sure that the child is well prepared for the concert experience
Many parents and professionals have differing opinions on the “right” age to take a child to his or her first concert, as there are many factors to consider, including a child’s interest level in music, the venue and style of musical show, and the child’s ability to focus for long periods of time. No matter the type of musical performance, parents should determine whether their children have enough of an interest in music to sit through the majority of a show, and whether the child is ready and able to enjoy this particular kind of experience. There is no universally applicable rule to this decision, so parents should use their best judgment in deciding what is right for their children on an individual basis.
2. Explain the structure of the concert
Before the day of the concert, parents should educate their child about what they can expect to see at the event. For example, if the headlining band has an opening act, children should know ahead of time that there may be a waiting period before the headliner comes on stage. It is also important to let them know what the atmosphere of the concert will be like ahead of time, to prepare them for an unfamiliar environment. If the venue will be loud, crowded, and full of energy, a child who expects to encounter that kind of atmosphere may be better equipped to handle it. Additionally, if the child knows only a few of the band’s songs, it can be helpful for parents to play more of the band’s music around the house or in the car in the weeks leading up to the event. Familiarity with a wider range of songs can help keep children from being bored or disappointed at the show.
The Day of the Concert
1. Be prepared
On the day of the concert, parents should arrive at the venue fully prepared for the evening. This means that children should be fed and should have gotten enough sleep the night before so they are as physically comfortable as possible during the show. Parents should also seriously consider bringing a set of ear plugs for their children to wear during loud concerts, as some members of the medical community have expressed concern over hearing damage to children’s ears at music shows. Additionally, parents must be prepared to leave the concert at a moment’s notice in the event that the child becomes overwhelmed, overly tired, or is generally unhappy.
2. Choose an emergency meeting place
Another important thing that parents must do on the day of a child’s first concert is to establish protocol for what to do should they become separated. Parents should choose a meeting place in the venue and show their child how to locate it. It can be helpful for parents to write the meeting place down on a slip of paper and have the child tuck it into his or her pocket as an extra precaution. While accidents happen, the best option is for parents to make sure to keep a close eye on their child during the concert at all times.
After the Concert
1. Ask your child engaging questions about the show
Once the concert is over, parents should make sure to ask their children questions about the experience. Questioning a child about his or her favorite part of the show, favorite songs from the set, and opinion of the overall experience can bring parents and kids closer together. A child’s first concert is an exciting, memorable event, so he or she will likely have plenty of things to say about it afterward.
2. Encourage a child who comes away from a concert with an interest in music
Going to a live concert for the first time can be an experience that inspires children to make music of their own. Parents should help their children explore their own musical interests long after the concert has passed by offering to take them to music lessons or allowing them to try out different instruments at a music store. Playing an instrument is an enriching hobby that can provide many benefits in a young child’s life, and parents should do what they can to cultivate a child’s interest in the subject if given the opportunity.
The piano is one of the most widely played instruments in the world—and for good reason. The versatile instrument, which is capable of producing music with depth, power, and nuance, allows musicians to play either independently or with others. Despite the many benefits that the piano has to offer, a belief in the following seven myths about learning to play the instrument can hold students back from reaching their potential as pianists.
1. The myth: It’s too late in life for me to learn to play the piano.
The reality: Age should not be a factor in determining whether or not someone can learn to play the piano. While there are many developmental benefits to taking lessons as a child, learning to play the piano as an adult can be just as gratifying, and in some cases, perhaps even more so. Children forced to take piano lessons at an early age may become bored and frustrated, making them unwilling to pursue the instrument into adulthood. Conversely, adults who make the choice to pursue the piano later on in life may find more satisfaction in learning to play.
2. The myth: As an adult, I’ll never learn as quickly as a child could.
The reality: The idea that children can intrinsically learn to play the piano more quickly than adults is incorrect. Many experts agree that the age at which people learn to play the piano does not significantly impact their ability to develop this talent. More than anything, the chief factor in how quickly piano students becomes proficient is not the age at which they first receive instruction, but rather the level of commitment to regular practice that they have.
3. The myth: I only have a keyboard to practice on, so I’ll never become a great piano player.
The reality: For a beginning student, practicing at home on a keyboard is an acceptable alternative to investing in a real piano. The fundamentals of the piano can be learned on a keyboard, although students without one may miss out on the opportunity to experiment with the subtleties of tone that weighted keys afford. Students who own a keyboard can also supplement their practice by seeking out a piano available for public use in places like churches, schools, or rented practice rooms.
4. The myth: I could never find the time to make piano practice a regular part of my routine.
The reality: One thing that piano students of all ages need to become proficient at is dedicated practice. No matter how busy they are, piano students can find time to schedule a reasonable amount of practice into their daily routine if they are truly intent on becoming proficient pianists. Practice sessions do not need to be long if they are well-planned. Practicing a few difficult bars of a song or fingering techniques on an instrument in several 5- to 10-minute sessions over the course of a day can be just as instructive as sitting down to practice for 30 minutes, straight through. Shorter practice sessions may actually be more helpful, as they prevent boredom and allow players to notice small, but noticeable improvements.
5. The myth: My hands are too small to play the piano well.
The reality: People with smaller hands who have never practiced an instrument before may rule out playing the piano because they don’t think that the size of their hands will allow them to play some of the wider chords. However, big hands and long fingers are not necessarily indicative of a person’s potential to play well, as they do not necessarily provide a pianist with agility or technical ability. No matter the size of a pianist’s hands or fingers, they will still need to train their hands to attain a level of flexibility that allows for skillful play. While experienced players with larger hands may have an easier time reaching the keys in some songs, pianists with smaller hands are still capable of performing at a high level.
6. The myth: Practicing the piano means playing a piece all the way through, repeatedly.
The reality: There is a common misconception that the best method of practicing the piano is to play a single piece all the way through from beginning to end until it is perfect. However, approaching practice this way can cause new musicians to become bored and abandon the pursuit of the piano before they ever have the opportunity to play well. Instead, music teachers suggest that the best way to practice is to set small, realistic goals for a practice session, focusing on one section at a time. Experts also state that focusing on a song’s more difficult sections first can allow the piece to come together more efficiently while keeping students more engaged in practice. The brain is more likely to absorb new, shorter snippets of musical information when it isn’t overwhelmed by long, repetitive strings of notes.
7. The myth: I should never look at my hands while I play.
The reality: Some piano teachers insist that their pupils not look at their hands while playing in an attempt to teach them to play and sight read simultaneously. However, many other experts within the music sector disagree and argue that new piano students should be allowed to look at their hands while playing in order to help them visualize the music that they are creating. Looking at their hands can help students establish stronger muscle memory and form a deeper connection to the songs that they perform.
It’s a feeling that many performers are familiar with: a racing pulse, trembling hands and knees, nausea, and the inability to sing or even speak without a tremor in your voice. Performance anxiety, known more commonly as stage fright, is a common occurrence among musicians of all experience levels and courses of study. Stage fright can be incredibly inconvenient for talented musicians focused on performing to the best of their ability in front of an audience.
Although there is no simple way to reduce the effects of stage fright, the following seven tips may help nervous musicians to regain some of the calm and control that will allow them to give the confident performance that they know they are capable of delivering.
1. Commit to maintaining a positive attitude.
While the suggestion that a musician should maintain a positive attitude before a performance may seem obvious, it can be an easy thing to forget when one is faced with the anxiety and self-doubt that can occur during a bout of stage fright. Musicians should attempt to recognize when they are engaging in negative or unrealistic thought patterns, such as all-or-nothing thinking, overgeneralization, and catastrophizing. Practicing mindfulness may help to diminish the impact of these feelings, as mindfulness can allow a musician to focus and cultivate a self-awareness that creates inner peace and greater confidence.
2. Show up well-prepared.
Putting in sufficient practice time before a performance is crucial in reducing the effects of stage fright. Musicians who dedicate themselves to practicing become familiar and comfortable with the songs that they perform, leading to less anxiety when it comes time to play on stage. Musicians should diligently use the months leading up to a performance to practice and memorize the mechanics of a song. Once the day of the performance arrives, they should ensure that they do not make last-minute changes and have faith in the work that they have put into their songs.
3. Experiment with smaller performances first.
For some musicians, the idea of playing on a stage to a large audience can seem daunting, but nonetheless it is often a necessary component of pursuing music on an advanced level. Some musicians find it to be less stressful to explore the world of performance on a smaller scale before a big show. Performing intimate concerts for friends and family, appearing at open mic nights at restaurants or coffee houses, and serving as a guest player for another band’s show may help musicians to make an easier transition into the world of large-scale musical performance.
4. Record yourself to gain a different perspective.
Experienced musicians often record themselves in order to objectively listen to their work and gain a more well-rounded idea of the areas in which they can better themselves. While performing, musicians’ attention must be focused not only on the technical aspects of their performance, but also on the fluidity of the sound that they are creating. It can be difficult to get a comprehensive idea of your strengths and weaknesses if you do not make a habit of checking in with yourself through recording. Listening to the music that you play from this perspective will allow you to perform better and have a stronger conviction in your abilities, creating less anxiety prior to a performance.
5. Keep yourself healthy and well-rested.
Exercise, adequate nutrition, and healthy sleep habits are an important part of combatting the effects of stage fright. Some studies suggest that a lack of sleep contributes to the development of anticipatory anxiety—the same kind of stress that one feels before an event such as a presentation at work or a musical show. Research has also shown that diet and exercise are linked to one’s ability to fight off stress. Musicians should use this knowledge to create a healthy lifestyle for themselves that is conducive to fighting off anxiety in general, reducing the likelihood that they will suffer from stage fright.
6. Distance yourself from the idea of perfection.
One mistake that some musicians make that can greatly increase the likelihood of developing stage fright is making perfection the main goal of their performance. While aiming for perfection is an acceptable goal during practice, it can place intense, unnecessary pressure on a musician during a public performance. A goal of that magnitude is not only nearly impossible to attain, but it may cause musicians to perform worse than they would have otherwise, leaving them feeling disappointed in the experience and more nervous when faced with future performances. While it’s fine to pursue perfection during practice sessions, once performance day arrives musicians should focus on enjoying themselves and celebrating their accomplishments in order to help mitigate performance anxiety.
7. Remember that stage fright is common among musicians.
While many professional musicians make an effort to keep their feelings of stage fright under wraps during their careers, plenty of high-profile musicians have been affected by stage fright throughout history, a fact that can be helpful for less experienced musicians to know. Big-name artists such as Adele, Eddie Van Halen, Brian Wilson, Cher, and Ozzy Osbourne have all been vocal about their struggles with stage fright. Even classic performers such as Frederic Chopin and Renee Fleming have admitted to experiencing their share of performance anxiety. With this in mind, it’s important for musicians of all levels of experience to remember that just because they experience stage fright does not mean that they cannot still give incredible performances.
As the most personal of all instruments, the voice can be a powerful tool for creating music that inspires others. Talented singers have the ability to motivate listeners to push through a difficult time, entertain and delight audiences, or even bring people to tears with their voices. To become a great singer with this level of ability, many vocalists do the following eight things.
1. They use effective warm-ups.
Just as a professional athlete does not participate in a sport without stretching his or her muscles beforehand, a professional singer does not begin to sing without first performing vocal warmups. Warmups make it easier for the singer to hit the higher and lower notes in his or her range, prevent damage to the voice, and strengthen the muscles around the singer’s vocal folds, leading to more control over the sound they produce.
2. They follow a healthy diet.
What a vocalist eats and drinks can have a significant impact on the sound quality of his or her voice. Great singers make a point of drinking a large amount of water, which helps keep the vocal cords hydrated. They also avoid excessive alcohol consumption and limit the amount of caffeine that they drink, as both substances dry out the body and constrict the blood vessels within the throat.
In addition to avoiding certain beverages, serious vocalists may refrain from consuming dairy products before a performance, as these foods can cause excess mucus to build up in the throat. In general, master vocalists attempt to eat a healthy diet that is low in sodium and rich in vitamins A, C, and E—all of which contribute to the maintenance of healthy mucus membranes.
3. They have good speaking habits.
Professional singers have to think about vocal cord care any time they are using their voice—not just when they’re performing. Master vocalists know that certain speech habits should be avoided when possible, including heavy coughing, long bouts of shouting or talking at an elevated volume, and speaking in a very low tone.
Great vocalists also avoid singing when they are sick. During an illness, a singer’s voice is already unlikely to reach peak performance, since the vocal cords are inflamed and irritated. Choosing to sing when the throat is already raw will not only diminish the quality of sound, but can also cause additional damage, prolonging the healing process unnecessarily.
4. They get plenty of sleep.
The vocal cords need rest like any other part of the body, and the best singers make an effort to stick to a healthy sleep schedule. Getting an average of eight hours of sleep per night helps singers fight off vocal fatigue and allows them to consistently perform at a high level, even when their schedules require them to perform on a daily basis. Those who wish to give their vocal cords enough rest should try to get at least eight hours of sleep per night in order to wake up fresh and ready to warm up the next day.
5. They don’t skip practice.
No vocalist can have a well-developed talent for singing if he or she avoids practicing. Though some people are born with a natural aptitude for singing, recent studies show that practice can have a greater impact on a person’s performance quality than raw ability alone. In addition to regular practice, great singers also spend their practice time efficiently, choosing to focus on additional areas outside the development of a repertoire. They dedicate time to mastering specific vocal techniques that challenge them and put their abilities to the test. Great singers avoid exclusively using their practice sessions to run through the same songs every time.
6. They display the correct breathing techniques and posture.
Accomplished singers have mastered the ability to manipulate their breath to create power and control their voices when performing. To support the breath, singers must also know how to assume the correct physical posture during a song in order to create a clear pathway between the diaphragm and the vocal cords. Straight posture that elongates the spine prevents the diaphragm from locking and allows the stomach to expand further, bringing more oxygen into the lungs.
7. They use their ears.
Becoming an adept singer means more than just knowing how to manipulate one’s vocal cords for optimal sound. Talented singers also know how to use critical listening skills to gauge their sound both while they’re singing and while listening to their recorded performances. Active listening allows singers to hear and adjust vocal elements in the moment, including pitch, tone, and volume, to better suit the accompanying music. The ability to accurately hear and adjust one’s own singing can be honed through ear training.
8. They stay confident.
When it comes to great vocal performances, confidence is crucial. Without confidence, singers have a tendency to be demonstrably affected by nervousness, which can manifest in a shaky voice that may fail to reach the quality that a singer is typically capable of producing. Great vocalists recognize that the practice they have put into their craft and the unique beauty of their own sound are worth sharing with people. They work toward confidently delivering strong performances while enjoying themselves in the process.
The human voice is designed much like any handheld instrument that relies on the power of the lungs to produce sound. The larynx acts in a similar fashion to the reed of a clarinet or saxophone, while the cavities of the head and chest work together to amplify the sounds produced by the vocal cords. This makes the voice a powerful and highly personal instrument, capable of producing some of the most emotive sounds in music. Read on to learn all about the use and care of the singing voice.
1. Is a good singing voice a natural talent or a developed ability?
Professionals suggest that with enough time, dedication, and practice, almost anyone can develop the ability to sing decently well. At the same time, some people are born with physical characteristics that make them better equipped to sing, such as an ideally shaped and sized set of vocal cords and larynx. The size of the person’s head also matters. Other factors that may influence a person’s ability to sing well include the age at and frequency with which he or she was exposed to music as a child. Still, most of those with relatively little exposure to music in early life and limited natural talent for singing may employ the help of a vocal teacher to learn techniques that can dramatically improve the quality of their singing voice.
2. What are the different voice types for men and women?
From a functional standpoint, male and female voices are not dramatically different. The tone of a person’s voice is shaped by the length of the vocal cords and the size of the larynx, both of which are influenced by the levels of testosterone in a person’s body. To distinguish between the vocal ranges of women and men, professionals use two sets of terms to describe male and female voices, depending on variables such as range, tessitura (that part of the range at which the singer is most comfortable singing), and vocal register (a term that describes the way a singer physically produces sound).
Among women, the singers capable of reaching the highest notes are sopranos, who have the ability to sing notes between B3 and C6, though certain subgroups within the soprano range can sing even higher. Next, with a range between G3 and A5, are the mezzo-soprano singers, followed by the contraltos. Known more commonly as “altos,” contraltos sing in the E3 to F5 range and are the rarest of the female voice types.
For men, there are four different vocal classifications, with the highest voice being the countertenor at a range of G3 to C6. Countertenors are the rarest voice type among both men and women. The second-highest range, from C3 to B4, is sung by the tenor, followed by the baritone at G2 to G4. The lowest of all voices is the bass. Men with bass voices can sing as high as E4 and as low as D2, rivaling the tone of the notes played on a cello.
3. What is a vocal register?
A vocal register refers to the different ways that sounds are physically produced in the body when a person is singing. Research performed by professionals within the fields of speech pathology and vocal training suggest that there are three basic vocal registers—the head, middle, and chest. Singers with exceptionally high voices may find that they are capable of reaching an additional level called the whistle register, while singers with low voices may also produce sounds that reach a register known as vocal fry.
Among the three basic vocal registers, the voice sounds its deepest, lowest, and most powerful when produced in the chest register. These notes are felt primarily in the chest cavity, and the vocal cords will feel thicker than they do at the middle register. Within the middle register, singers often feel the most vibration within the area of the upper neck and lower face. In the head register, the singing voice resonates primarily within the sinuses, creating a higher sound that can be felt predominantly in the upper half of the face.
4. Why is it important to care for the voice?
Whether a person considers singing to be a hobby or a professional pursuit, he or she must take certain steps to prevent damage to the vocal cords. Becoming a good vocalist is a long process, and those who ignore simple voice care face the possibility of ruining their hard work through neglect and bad habits. Actions that can cause immediate short-term damage to singers’ voices include excessive shouting, throat-clearing, or untreated acid reflux.
Over the long term, lasting damage can be caused by failing to warm up before a practice or performance, frequent dehydration, alcohol or tobacco use, or pushing the voice to reach high registers at loud volumes through unhealthy means. Those who fail to take care of their voices run the risk of developing nodules, polyps, or hemorrhages in their vocal folds, which can completely ruin an individual’s ability to sing at his or her personal best.
Though science has yet to determine music’s evolutionary purpose, its significance to humankind today is undisputed. Research even shows that a small portion of the human brain is specifically designated to process music. While it may have served a different purpose in prehistoric days, today we use music in many complex ways—even when we don’t think we’re “using” music so much as simply listening and enjoying it. For example, music can be a tool for coping and healing during difficult times. Listed below are four ways that music can make hard times more bearable.
Music helps us make a connection with others.
When you’re experiencing a difficult time in life, you may spend more time alone, pulling away from bonds that you share with friends and family. This kind of isolation can often make you feel socially disconnected at a time when you most need the support of a community.
In these instances, music may provide a simple and effective way to reestablish connections with other people, as studies show that listening to or performing music is an excellent way to form social bonds. It is a nearly universal interest for people from entirely different backgrounds, cultures, and lifestyles. Because nearly everyone enjoys music in some form, it is also an incredible unifier, giving strangers something in common from the moment they meet.
When we listen to music with other people, science suggests that the brain releases neuro-chemicals that help facilitate feelings of intimacy and connection. The effects of music on human connection may be even stronger when people make music together, by playing instruments or singing. At times when people feel alone during difficult periods, music may provide a way for them to reconnect and find the social support needed to overcome challenges.
Music allows us to evaluate difficult emotions.
In the same way that difficult times of life often leave people feeling socially isolated, they can also cause people to shut down emotionally, unable to express or understand the negative feelings that they are experiencing. However, expressing emotions is one of the best things that you can do for your mental health during a challenging time, as it allows you to sort through your feelings, gain perspective, and let go of stress and tension.
When you don’t have someone that you feel comfortable talking to, music can provide a healthy outlet for emotional expression. Listening to music that resonates with a particular emotion can be a subtle yet effective way to explore complicated inner thoughts, and may allow you to gain a better understanding of your own feelings. Lyrics and melodies written by musicians may convey complexities that you can’t put into words yourself, but which perfectly capture your underlying emotions.
Music promotes relaxation and stress reduction.
Along with prompting sadness, discouragement, or anger, life’s challenges cause an enormous amount of stress. While a small amount of everyday stress can have a positive influence on human behavior, intense stress can lead to mental and physical health problems, including depression, inability to focus, fatigue, headaches, and trouble falling asleep.
Studies in recent years have revealed that people who are dealing with significant stress can turn to music as a method of stress reduction. In one instance, researchers found that music with a tempo of about 60 beats per minute encouraged the brain to synchronize with the song’s rhythm, generating alpha brainwaves in the process. This helps reduce stress because alpha brainwaves are present in the brain when a person is feeling awake and relaxed. In another study, research showed that hospital patients who needed surgery experienced a lower degree of stress if they listened to music before and after their operation.
During stressful times, setting aside time to listen to soothing music may be an excellent decision. Though it might seem like dedicating time out of a busy day to sit and listen to music is frivolous, the small time investment may lead to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and a greater ability to deal with challenging situations.
Music helps you get more sleep.
Sleep problems arise during life’s more difficult periods, brought on by the stress of having to deal with something that stretches your coping abilities. If you’ve ever had difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, you know all too well that sleep problems can wreak havoc with your mood, energy level, ability to focus, and work performance. Over time, sleep deprivation can lead to more serious mental health conditions, such as depression—an illness that can make it even more difficult for people to overcome any problems that they are facing.
To combat the negative effects of sleep deprivation, research has shown that music has the potential to increase both the quantity and quality of sleep. In one study, people who listened to 45 minutes of music while lying down to sleep every night for three weeks had feelings of more restful sleep, fell asleep faster after lying down, and slept for longer periods of time.
During difficult times, being well rested is a crucial part of being equipped to handle challenges, but it’s often an elusive state to attain. Soothing, enjoyable music is a natural antidote to the restlessness and exhaustion that accompany frustrating circumstances.
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.