The guitar is among the most widely-played instruments in the Western world. Since it first gained popularity with the advent of rock and roll in the middle of the 20th century, countless aspiring musicians have sought out the guitar as a means of artistic expression.
Those who are ready to make a serious commitment to this six-string instrument may consider buying a guitar of their own for the first time. Listed below are four common mistakes everyone should avoid when buying their first guitar.
Buying a guitar that’s too cheap
If you’re serious about learning to play, you should set aside at least $200 to buy your first guitar. No matter which style of guitar you’re looking to pick up, an investment of at least $200 will generally provide you with an instrument that has a respectable sound and a playability conducive to new learners. Making room in your budget for this minimum expenditure is much more likely to help you obtain a guitar that is fun to practice on, has a good tone, and doesn’t go out of tune too quickly.
On the other hand, as a new player, you should be wary of buying an expensive guitar until you’re truly committed to learning how to play. At a certain point, a guitar’s quality will not make you sound any better, unless you have achieved a certain level of skill. Spending an exorbitant amount of money on a first guitar is therefore usually unnecessary.
Buying a guitar with the wrong sound
Though some music professionals argue that new players should hone their early skills on an acoustic guitar, others suggest that this can be demotivating for some people. The first guitar that you buy should be one that’s suited to playing the style of music you’re most interested in. Those who want to play old school country or folk music may find that the acoustic guitar works out best. If you’re particularly interested in learning to play rock, pop, or heavy metal, an electric guitar might be the better choice. And if you’re more committed to learning jazz or the blues, you may get more enjoyment out of a hollow body or semi-hollow body guitar.
No matter what version of the instrument you settle on as a new guitarist, you should make the decision based on your own interests. If the sound coming from the instrument doesn’t move you, you likely be less motivated to continue practicing.
Buying your first guitar secondhand
As stated before, making a minimum investment to obtain a quality guitar makes a big difference when it comes to playability, and therefore can have a significant impact on whether you’ll continue to practice the instrument over the long term. One of the best ways to get more value for your money is to purchase a guitar secondhand, but some professionals advise inexperienced players to avoid this. Used guitars can be damaged in subtle ways that are difficult to detect and make the instrument unpleasant for novice musicians to play. Worn-down frets, buzzing strings, high action, cracks, and bent necks can all go unnoticed by the untrained eye, and all have the potential to make the instrument challenging to practice on and therefore less enjoyable.
If you feel compelled to purchase your first guitar secondhand, make sure to bring along an experienced guitarist who can assess the quality of the instrument before you purchase it.
Buying a guitar without the necessary equipment
There is a list of supplies that you’ll need to buy along with the instrument. First, plan to buy a physical tuner, rather than relying on a smartphone app to help you tune your guitar. While apps are helpful in a pinch, physical tuners are more accurate and will make a guitar sound much better. Buying several guitar picks can also be useful for new musicians during practice.
Another non-negotiable item that all new players need to buy is a case for their instrument. A good case offers protection that will help keep your guitar in good condition when you’re transporting it from location to location. A case also provides a safe place to store the guitar at home when you’re not using it.
When you’re shopping for your first guitar, ask for professional advice from the salespersons at the store. Many associates at guitar and music shops are trained to help customers find the instrument that best suits their level of ability, and they’re usually happy to give advice on the right equipment to purchase along with a new guitar.
Music is one of the world’s most important, unifying art forms and activities. It brings people together from all cultures, ages, and backgrounds, and has the power to improve the lives of those who engage with it in simple yet significant ways. Listed below are four ways that music can improve everyday life.
1. Stress and anxiety regulation
Recent studies by the American Psychological Association (APA) have shown that stress levels are higher than they have ever been. In addition, stress appears to grow in scale with each passing year. In the United States, the top causes of stress include work pressure, money troubles, health crises, and problems in relationships. Anxiety and stress are noted to be the root cause of up to 60 percent of diseases and illnesses, and are known to increase an individual’s risk of stroke, heart attack, and heart disease.
No matter the source of the stress, professionals in the psychological community suggest that playing or listening to music may help relieve symptoms of stress and anxiety by lowering the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone in the brain. Scientific studies have revealed that music is able to reduce feelings of anxiety in pre and post-op surgery patients, decrease feelings of overwhelm in busy nursing students, and also reduce stress and emotional upset in patients living with cancer.
Listening to calming music during stressful times can lead to a more relaxed state of mind, leaving people better equipped to deal with challenges as they arise.
2. Improved memory and productivity at work
Many people look for ways to improve their job performance, whether motivated by a personal desire to excel or through incentives like higher pay. An improvement in job performance may allow people to receive the kind of praise and recognition from their manager that allows them to feel more fulfilled in their careers, and therefore more content, both on the job and at home.
Incorporating music into a work routine has been shown to help employees focus better, improve memory, and learn new tasks faster. Listening to music on headphones can help employees tune out the many distractions of a busy office, make a repetitive task seem more engaging, and even stimulate a release of dopamine that keeps the mind motivated and on task.
People who are looking for a way to improve and increase their professional output should consider making music a regular part of the workday. One study suggests classical music for jobs that require attention to detail, pop music for data entry professionals or people who are on a deadline, ambient music for work that involves solving equations, and dance tunes for tasks that rely heavily on problem-solving or proofreading.
3. Increased sense of empathy
Empathy is the character trait that allows us to relate to one another. It is loosely defined as the capacity to understand and respond to the feelings of other people—in other words, the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes. At the most fundamental level, empathy is what connects us as human beings. It’s necessary for establishing the strong, close relationships with family and friends that we humans need to be happy and fulfilled.
Studies of children as young as elementary school age have indicated that participation in music programs with others resulted in an advanced ability to recognize and respond to the emotions of their peers. This effect was determined, in part, to be the result of young students having a shared experience that mandated the participation of all group members. The study also showed that these children had an increased ability to cooperate and practice patience; these abilities contribute to the formation of better social relationships.
Others studies on this subject show that people who listen to music rather than play it may also see empathy gains. In one study, the area of the brain associated with empathy lit up in test subjects when they were told that a piece of music was composed by a human, but did not light up when subjects were told the piece was written by a robot. Professionals believe that our empathy may be heightened when listening to music due to the fact that we are inclined to try and understand the meaning or intent behind a musical composition when we hear it.
4. Better physical health
Few factors are as important as physical health when it comes to maintaining a happy life. Whereas being healthy allows you to focus on all the things that make life worth living, struggling with health problems can make everything seem difficult and less enjoyable.
Professionals suggest that music may be able to help people maintain better physical health in surprising ways. Music that plays at a rate of 60 beats per minute can cause the listener to become more relaxed, with a reduced heart rate as well as a drop in blood pressure. In addition, some studies show that prolonged exposure to upbeat dance music may increase levels of antibodies in the bloodstream, strengthening the immune system.
Music further encourages good health through its ability to motivate people during exercise. Those who listen to their favorite songs during physical activities reportedly feel less fatigue, as they tend to focus more on the songs rather than any exhaustion they feel. Staying motivated and sticking to an exercise regime is a crucial component of a long-term plan to stay healthy.
Learning to play an instrument can have a significant positive impact on the lives of children who play them. Studies show that students who study music have better language processing skills, perform better on math tests, and even have IQs that are several points higher than those students who do not actively pursue musicianship.
To learn to play an instrument well, it’s important that students find a skilled music teacher to guide them through the process. Listed below are seven important characteristics that the best music teachers tend to possess.
They have a genuine love for music.
This characteristic is a must-have for music teachers of all disciplines. The people who make the best music instructors aren’t just passionate about the specific genre of music that they teach, but have a love and appreciation for the subject as an art form. Having a proficiency within music alone will not inspire students.
Children respond to those who show genuine enthusiasm for the subject. The joy that a teacher feels for music should be evident in all lessons that he or she teaches, rather than only in the lessons that are the most exciting. This can be especially helpful in motivating younger students to practice and become more engaged with their lessons.
They show a high degree of patience.
To be an effective music teacher, one must be people-oriented, possess emotional intelligence and have a large capacity for patience. Students will develop their musical abilities at different rates, and not all of them will grasp important concepts right away. Great instructors are able to listen to students as they play and expediently identify any key problems that hold them back from progress.
Not only that, teachers must be capable of providing critiques that help students overcome challenges. An excellent music teacher also remembers that mastery of an instrument or musical concept requires repetition. He or she is also happy to provide support for and belief in students of all levels of ability.
They know the value of fundamentals.
Excellent music teachers never forget the importance of the fundamentals. Both in technique and theory, skilled instructors understand that training in and reinforcement of fundamental elements like breathing, hand positions, and posture must be maintained as a student becomes more and more familiar with his or her instrument.
They also understand the role that fundamental music theory concepts have in the way that children understand, relate to, and personalize music as they become more proficient. Skilled music teachers never forget the relevance of these core lessons and are not afraid to return to them when necessary, no matter how much progress has been made.
They get to know their students.
As all children are different, they will all respond differently to music lessons. A talented music teacher recognizes the need to accommodate their individual needs. Great teachers show personal investment in their students as musicians and as people, and let all students know that they care about their progress.
The best instructors communicate with students about the struggles and successes that accompany learning an instrument. They also help to develop reasonable goals for each child to work toward at a pace that suits him or her based on the student’s personal musical ability.
They’re lifelong learners.
An excellent music teacher knows that practicing music is a lifelong pursuit. They seek out opportunities to improve their own abilities in addition to their students’. They listen to new styles of music and are not afraid to ask questions or take lessons from their peers. Effective instructors are also not afraid to share this insight with their students and promote the idea that people at all levels of proficiency can look for ways to improve their performance.
They communicate well.
Music is full of complex concepts that can be difficult to explain. Great music teachers learn how to teach tough subjects in a way that is concise and leaves plenty of time for students to have actual practice with an instrument during the lesson.
Many of the most effective music instructors give short, clear explanations for difficult subject matter and then rely on the music to speak for itself. At the same time, music teachers must be approachable, talented listeners who students feel comfortable coming to with questions if any part of a lessons seems unclear to them.
They know that if they’re doing the job right, they’ll eventually no longer be needed.
The ultimate mark of a truly excellent music instructor is someone who is working toward the goal of rendering him or herself obsolete in a student’s musical journey. Great teachers do their jobs well, and help students to achieve progress that allows them independence and creative self-expression within their music.
A talented instructor is able to recognize when it’s time for advanced students to move forward, and helps them to develop a solid foundation of skills that will serve them well as they continue their musical journeys.
The human singing voice is arguably the most widely-used method of making music. About 98 percent of the world’s population has the ability to recognize the nuances between musical notes and identify when a note is in or out of tune. Additionally, every cultural group in existence has incorporated the act of singing into their societies in some way.
While early humans often sang to pray, recount history, or celebrate rites of passage, modern-day vocalists sing for artistic expression and the entertainment of others in a diverse array of styles. And although the voice may not be one of the world’s most difficult instruments, it is still important to care for one’s voice in order to give the best performance possible.
From the stylish tones of popular musical artists on the radio to the dramatic arias of opera singers on stages around the world, vocalists must be familiar with the following important voice care tips listed below.
Always Warm up before Singing
To sing, vocalists push air out of the lungs and between the vocal chords, which then contract and vibrate to produce sound. The process is a physical one, and like other physical activities, it requires an individual to warm up prior to practice in order to prevent damage and perform to the best of his or her ability.
A singer who takes the time to warm up his or her voice before a practice or performance will widen vocal range, sing with greater consistency, and have the ability to sing for a longer period of time. Singers who make warm ups a mandatory part of their routines can also help themselves avoid more serious injuries down the line, such as the development of nodules, or polyps in the vocal cords which often require surgery to repair.
Develop Good Lifestyle Habits
Leading a healthy lifestyle is an important part of life for many professional vocalists, and those who want to become accomplished singers should strive for a high standard of self-care. For example, regular physical exercise can help singers develop a healthy posture and better breath control, both of which are crucial to voice projection and manipulation.
Singers should also try to drink six to eight glasses of water every day and eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. This increases one’s intake of vitamins A, C, and E, and aids in the healthy development of the throat’s mucus membranes. It is also important to limit caffeine, as it can cause both the larynx and the vocal cords to dry out.
Stay Relaxed When You Sing
Along with developing good posture, a vocalist must make sure to keep the muscles in his or her neck, throat, and jaw relaxed while performing. Singers often have the impulse to tighten the neck and raise the chin when singing high notes and lower the chin when singing low notes. Not only does this strain the vocal cords, but it also can limit a singer’s range over time.
Vocalists who sing through a clenched jaw run the risk of diminishing the projection of the voice. This can cause them to overcompensate for the muffled sound by singing louder than necessary, leading to vocal strain.
Avoid Actions That Cause Damage
There are a substantial number of everyday actions that can instantly harm the voice without a singer being aware of it. For example, a bout of yelling can cause damage to the lining of the vocal cords, as can excessive throat clearing and whispering. Too much talking when the throat feels hoarse, tired, or sore can also result in damage to the voice.
Additionally, acid reflux can have a negative impact on the vocal cords. Singers who experience this condition should talk to a medical professional in order to discuss the best course of action for reducing it.
To combat the effects of everyday damage, music professionals suggest giving the voice plenty of rest. Investing in a humidifier can prevent the air within the home from becoming dry, which can be harsh on the vocal cords.
Don't Sing When You're Sick
This should be an obvious tip, but many vocalists need to be reminded that when illness strikes, it is time to rest one's voice. Attempting to sing while sick puts even more strain on the voice than standard singing.
Not only that, singing was sick generally will not produce the quality of sound that a vocalist is capable of producing when healthy. Singers who are ill should take time to rest, drink plenty of water, and avoid talking until the throat and nasal passages return to normal.
Choose a Quality Vocal Coach
Ultimately, vocalists who are serious about their craft should consider enlisting the help of a professional to coach them. As noted above, the voice is an instrument. Like any other instrument, it requires practice and instruction to become truly proficient.
Singers should look for teachers who are experienced in the vocal techniques that the student is interested in, and who have the ability to make their students feel comfortable performing and asking questions. Great vocal coaches are goal-oriented instructors who help students make meaningful progress toward a better, stronger voice after every lesson.
You’re never too old to learn to play an instrument. Playing an instrument can be a joy for anyone, whether you choose to begin with the piano at age 4 or the guitar at age 40. The important thing to remember for those who pursue the study of a musical instrument is that the success of the endeavor ultimately comes down to one thing: practice. No musician can ever become proficient with his or her chosen instrument if he or she neglects to practice.
Listed below are a collection of important tips for student musicians who want to get the most out of their practice sessions.
Choose a Good Practice Place
Practicing an instrument takes dedication and focus. The process will be much easier if you have a quiet, secluded area free from distractions like TV or the conversations of others. It can also be beneficial to designate a specific area of the home for this purpose, and return to it with your instrument whenever you practice.
Whether you make a practice space in the corner of your bedroom or have a whole room dedicated to the purpose, make sure that any supplies you may need for your practice session are nearby before you begin. Getting up to search for needed supplies in the middle of practicing can distract the mind and make it difficult to dedicate the necessary attention to the process.
Give Yourself a Goal for Each Session
Learning an instrument can feel overwhelming and frustrating at times. However, entering into every practice session with a goal in mind can help you stay motivated and on track.
Picking up your instrument to practice without a pre-established goal can leave you feeling unsure of your progress at the end of the session, so choose an objective for the day before you sit down to play, no matter how small. Examples of goals include mastering chord changes, learning a picking pattern, or even familiarizing yourself with the fingering of new chords.
Don't Rush through Pieces
Practicing an instrument is not only about the memorization of pieces. There will be occasions in which you will need to focus on the memorization of whole songs. However, the point of practicing is to develop good technique and generate the muscle memory needed to play a piece correctly.
Rushing through a piece from beginning to end each time you practice leaves you vulnerable to making repeated mistakes that become ingrained into your playing. Such mistakes are much more difficult to undo later. Instead, it is best to learn correctly the first time.
Focus on small parts of a piece at a time. Make it a point to repeat passages in which you miss notes until you have played each passage the correct way multiple times. The tempo of the song and the number of bars that you play can be gradually increased as you become more familiar with the piece.
Find a Practice Schedule That Works for You
If you really want to play well, you should set aside time to practice your instrument every day, but each musician must develop a practice schedule that suits his or her own needs. However often you choose to practice, remember that sessions don’t have to be played at any specific time or manner.
If you have more energy in the morning, consider practicing before school or work. If you are at your best later in the afternoons, practice in the evening when you return home for the day. Also remember that your practice time can be broken up into multiple segments, if it makes the process more enjoyable.
Whether you dedicate 30 minutes or two hours to practicing, taking a break between sessions can make learning an instrument more enjoyable for some. This is especially the case for young musicians, who may find it difficult to focus for prolonged periods of time.
Always Warm Up
Both beginning and experienced music students should make it a point to warm up before practicing a piece. Starting out slowly with a scale that allows your fingers to get proper exercise can help prepare your hands, fingers, and wrists for the workout that they receive each time you pick up your instrument. Those who neglect to warm up may run the risk of developing hand muscle injuries, such as carpal tunnel and tendonitis.
Look for Useful Tools to Help You along the Way
There are many phone apps, websites, YouTube videos, and other technologies that can help improve the way you practice. One of the best ways to gain some perspective about your progress is to record yourself in audio or video format as you play. Then, listen back to the recording to determine whether or not you’re playing the correct notes.
Remember That Playing Proficiently Will Take Time
One of the most difficult aspects of learning an instrument is to demonstrate patience. Though you will likely be eager to see results right away, it’s crucial for new musicians to remember that learning to play an instrument proficiently takes a lot of time and a lot of hard work.
Instead of being frustrated about the time it takes to play music well, focus on small victories along the way. Feel good about mastering the first few bars of a piece and give yourself recognition when you successfully memorize new chord progressions. Musicianship can be a true source of happiness for those who appreciate the process of learning to play, rather than just the idea of proficiency.
Science shows that people of all ages can experience significant benefits from the study of and exposure to music. This is especially true in the case of children, whose development can be positively influenced by the presence of music in their lives throughout each of the following stages of childhood.
Exposing a child to music in his or her infancy is an excellent way to lay the groundwork for musical development and appreciation later in life. Babies develop the ability to hear before they are even born, and the sense fully matures by the time they are one month old. This makes it easy for babies to respond to music from a very early age.
The infant brain has a predisposition toward learning music in a way similar to its inclination toward learning language. Singing to babies or rocking them gently to soft songs can nurture strong musical neural pathways that lead them to engage enthusiastically with songs as they grow. A baby who is familiar with music may also begin to vocally experiment with melodies the way that many babies experiment with speech—through babbling and producing their own sounds. Studies have shown that parents who rhythmically rock babies in time to music may help their children develop stronger cognitive skills, as the ability to recognize and predict rhythmic patterns in music can also affect a baby’s ability to recognize patterns and rhythm in speech.
For toddlers, music is an excellent way to help them learn and boost memory. Songs can help children accomplish learning feats such as remembering the alphabet, and can even be used to help them learn to master new skills, like how to tie their shoes.
Though each child is different, most experts agree it is best to wait until a child is around the age of five to begin taking formal music lessons. Though some children express interest in experimenting with instruments earlier, five-year-olds are generally better equipped to pay attention to a lesson and understand that they will not be able to immediately play music. Waiting until the child is older also reduces the risk that he or she will become bored and frustrated, and therefore turned off to musicianship altogether.
As children reach school age, those who practice music develop a wide range of valuable abilities and skills. Different studies of musicianship in children have noted that practicing an instrument may increase their capacity for creativity, improve spatial intelligence, expand mathematics skills, improve language comprehension, and strengthens various areas of the brain.
One study published by the Journal of Neuroscience indicates that young musicians develop stronger neural connections between the left and right hemispheres of the brain, which ultimately results in these children displaying faster cognitive abilities than those of their peers. Another study conducted by Brown University showed that practicing an instrument increases the production of grey matter in the brain, leading to neural connections that fostered better skills in spelling, reading comprehension, and motor skills. Practicing an instrument in childhood may also improve a child’s ability to organize and problem-solve.
By the time a child reaches the “tween” years (between the ages of eight and 12), they may have the opportunity to participate in a school band. For many children, this age will be the first time they have the chance to practice an instrument, and the positive developmental effects continue to benefit kids at this stage of life. Like younger children, older children who practice music often do better in subjects like math and reading. In addition, making a commitment to play an instrument at this age requires ample practice, which teaches older children about the value of discipline and self-control. A child who practices regularly can apply this self-regulatory strength to other areas of academics, such as completing homework assignments.
There is also a social benefit to playing music as an older child. Playing an instrument in the school band or orchestra can help children understand the importance of patience and teamwork. Learning to work together and take turns during practice sessions can help kids at this age learn about the value of collaboration and what they can accomplish as part of a team. Participation in these groups also gives older children the opportunity to feel as though they are part of a larger community, which can be important in a phase of development when they begin to undergo emotional and social changes.
It’s common knowledge that music plays a significant role in the lives of teenagers, and a study from 2015 showed that children in this age group listen to an average of four hours of music every day. Music not only serves as an emotional outlet for teens and a way to express their personal identities, but it also has a social element as well. Music allows teenagers to bond with friends and form meaningful relationships with others in a way that is important for personal development.
Beyond listening to music, teenagers who practice an instrument continue to reap cognitive benefits that mirror those experienced by younger children. Scientific evidence confirms that practicing a musical instrument during the teenage years continues to boost brain development, leading to positive effects like stronger literacy skills. Positive effects outside of the brain include the fact that students who belong to high school band or orchestra groups are less likely to develop lifelong problems with alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. Teens who are musicians have also been noted to be less likely to display disciplinary problems and have higher grade point averages than their peers who did not play an instrument.
If you’re looking for a fun activity to do with your child that will further his or her love of music, you should consider watching a documentary about music together. There are plenty of films out there that explore a variety of music-related topics, including the history of music, the lives of various musicians, and the effects that music has on our brains.
To get the most out of the documentary you choose, be sure to take the opportunity to discuss it afterwards with your child. Did your child find any scene particularly memorable? Were any parts of the film confusing or surprising?
The following are a few of the best music documentaries that families can enjoy together:
The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years
Directed by multiple-award-winner Ron Howard, The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years chronicles the four legendary band members from 1963 to 1966 through a series of stories, exclusive interviews, and concert footage. The film describes how the fabulous four created their music and how the group coped with their unprecedented rise to fame.
Actual concert footage gives viewers a behind-the-scenes look at some of the group’s most iconic moments. For example, at the very first Beatles concert held in the United States, the band had to perform a 12-song set for about 8,000 fans while standing in a boxing ring. Because the group was positioned in the center of the stadium, the Fab Four had to stop every few songs and rotate themselves and their mics and amps 90 degrees so that everyone in the audience could see them.
The documentary was originally released in theaters and made available for streaming on Hulu in September 2016, a few weeks after the 50th anniversary of Beatles’ last concert, which took place at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. In November 2016, The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years won a Critics Choice Documentary Award for best music documentary.
How Music Works
A four-episode documentary that aired in the UK in 2006, How Music Works explores how every song shares a few common elements: melody, rhythm, harmony, and bass. The episodes are essentially a series of music lessons backed by easy-to-understand explanations. This documentary is a must-watch for those who enjoy listening to music but don’t know much about it.
As composer Howard Goodall explains each component, he provides precise detail on the role scales and tempo play in the musical process. To help viewers better hear the connection between each song, Goodall quickly switches from one genre to another. One of the best things about this documentary is that it flattens out the music hierarchy, reminding people that no particular form is superior to another.
The Music Instinct: Science and Song
Exploring the psychological, emotional, and biological impact of music, The Music Instinct: Science and Song examines how and why music stirs our emotions and details the proven healing power of music. The two-hour documentary, which premiered in 2009, takes viewers on an educational journey that shows exactly how the brain processes sounds and the ways that music is distinct from any other type of sound.
According to the film, a wide variety of factors, including our memories, determine how we interpret music we hear. This explains why listening to a certain song can stir up powerful emotions or elicit thoughts of good or bad times.
The Music Instinct: Science and Song also features renowned musicians such as jazz legend Bobby McFerrin and accomplished cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who provide insight into how music has particularly affected them. During filming, McFerrin teams up with the World Singers in order to demonstrate how tempo, pitch, and melody trigger a variety of brain responses. Yo-Yo Ma plays educates viewers on how musicians use intervals to create harmonies.
Written and directed by award-winning filmmaker Elena Mannes and narrated by Audra MacDonald, The Music Instinct: Science and Song is available on pbs.org, Amazon.com, and YouTube.
These are just a few of many interesting documentaries about music, but there are countless other options available for you and your family to watch. DocumentaryTube.com is a great resource for finding free and engaging music documentaries online. Resources like this can be invaluable for music enthusiasts, as well as for teachers and students of music.
Children who choose to play an instrument are often limited to the piano or violin. Once children get close to high school, then joining a marching band may seem more appealing. While performing in a marching may appear to be fun and easy, there are a variety of different aspects that go into these performances. Participating in a marching band is not necessarily the easiest musical activity to embark upon. Students are often required to perform outdoors in inclement weather conditions, all while wearing heavy uniforms and carrying even heavier instruments. Band members are expected to be able to do all of these things and to still play at a high level. Find out about all the ins and outs of joining a marching band and how to encourage your child once he or she becomes part of the team.
Practice Schedules and Time Management
One of the most crucial aspects of participating in a marching band is finding time to practice and to manage your time effectively. Band members are expected to balance their academic requirements and complete their homework on time, which can be a challenge when you’re trying to squeeze in time for band practice. Interestingly, marching bands are one of the few extracurricular activities that is undertaken almost year-round, and in many cases, practices even occur over summer break. Members of the marching band are around each other for a great deal of time, helping to foster strong bonds among the band.
In general, children who desire to join a marching band have been shown to be high achievers and are usually well behaved in the classroom. Ensuring that these children are around other like-minded individuals can have a positive effect, and it has been shown that relationships with one’s peers can have a significant impact on how students view their overall high school experience. Rehearsals for marching band routines are typically long and conducted outdoors, regardless of the weather. Practicing under these grueling conditions requires strong mental fortitude and a solid work ethic.
Building Teamwork Skills
Marching band stands apart in the world of high school activities because it brings together students from various classes and age groups. From freshmen to seniors, the marching band offers students the opportunity to network with those who not are not necessarily in their graduating class. Joining a marching band can be a great way to make new friends, and some schools even allow incoming students to join a summer program prior to their freshman year, which will provide them with instant friendships once the school year actually begins.
Marching band routines are often choreographed, and students have to learn to work closely with one another and exhibit a true team mentality in order to pull off a successful performance. Teamwork skills can help prepare students to join college marching bands, where routines are often televised, and any discord is quickly noticed by fans. Scouts are often on the lookout for the best and brightest individuals to join some of the country's most prestigious marching bands, so it is always important for all members to work together to produce the best performance possible.
Working with Band Directors
During a marching band performance, most of the focus is on the musicians, but the team cannot accomplish anything without the help of a strong band director. Similar to an orchestra conductor, marching band directors are responsible for organizing the performances and making the entire production appear effortless.
While they often don’t receive credit, band directors play a central role in the success of a band. The reason why many great marching band directors are generally not seen is that they understand that in a team environment, when one individual succeeds, the entire team succeeds.
Opportunity for Exercise
In addition to all of the social and time management skills required to participate in a marching band, it is also a great form of exercise, even for those who don't necessarily enjoy it. Being part of a marching band requires a great deal of movement—often in hot weather—which will inevitably burn a lot of calories. Sedentary children will have a chance to engage in much-needed physical activity and develop stamina. Even those students who start out slow will soon be able to keep up with their band mates.
Students who participate on a marching band use several different muscle groups, which can help them to become stronger overall and perform better in other extracurricular activities. Marching bands can also help students develop proper breathing technique, as breath control is essential to play instruments while engaging in rigorous physical activity. One survey even indicated that marching band performers move about 180 steps per minute on average while playing instruments that can weigh upwards of 40 pounds.
Marching band practice is certainly rigorous and not for the faint of heart. However, despite the long practice hours, exposure to the elements, and the physical requirements of being in a marching band, many members generally would not trade the experience for anything else.
Emotional intelligence is similar to the intelligence quotient (IQ). However, instead of trying to figure out how smart people are based on their answers to questions, emotional intelligence is more concerned with how people relate to others. School administrators have begun to understand more about how emotional intelligence plays into the lives of students, and more school districts have begun to integrate emotional intelligence into their curricula. Music classes are the easiest way to facilitate activities that can help students develop emotional intelligence.
It is widely accepted that participating in music classes can have a calming effect on children with a variety of emotional disorders or who struggle with behavioral problems at home and at school. In terms of emotional intelligence, music can help individuals to develop positive emotions such as empathy, active listening, and other pro-social behaviors.
While less research has been conducted on emotional intelligence and its connection to music education, the research that has been conducted has been promising. For example, one researcher examined the differences between musicians and non-musicians when it came to emotional intelligence, and the findings were quite interesting.
Researcher Glenn Schellenberg separated emotional intelligence into four categories: the ability to perceive emotions, understand how emotions operate, use emotions to facilitate critical thinking, and manage emotions in social situations. Schellenberg sought to find a connection between music and emotional intelligence, as well as to explain the meaning behind the higher IQ scores of musicians. Although the study's findings weren't considered statistically significant by scientific standards, there was a strong indication that musicians score better on IQ tests than their non-musical counterparts.
Another study focused on adults who completed a series of tests designed to gauge the connection between music and emotional intelligence. In one standardized emotional test, participants wrote about the emotions that they believed they would experience in hypothetical situations. The other test looked at participants’ ability to listen to classical piano while attempting to describe the emotions elicited by the music. Study participants with higher levels of emotional intelligence were able to accurately describe the emotions elicited by the music. By comparing the studies’ two sets of tests, it was revealed that the same emotions necessary to deal with everyday situations were the same ones used to identify the meaning behind the music.
One explanation was that listening to music and learning how to play it presents several inherent challenges that can only be mastered with a proper level of emotional intelligence and cognitive functioning, such as hand-eye coordination, attention span, and several other indicators.
Just as the Mozart Effect has been shown to increase students’ ability to express themselves verbally, additional research has examined how music can impact cognitive functioning in other areas of life. Research has shown that music students are better able to execute tasks that involve listening such as identifying songs. These enhanced listening skills can be essential for developing healthy emotional intelligence. Moreover, music has been shown to have a generally positive effect on nearly any task that a person is required to perform.
Developing Musical Flow
Both amateur and professional musicians often use the word “flow” to describe this part of the creative process. Flow basically refers to the creation of a musical piece intended to elicit a certain reaction from an audience and represents the range of emotions that musicians go through in the process. The performer is highly motivated to speak directly to a specific type of listener in the creation of the music, which requires a high degree of emotional intelligence. Developing an understanding of what type of music stirs certain emotions means that a musician must have a close connection to that set of emotions themselves.
Essentially, flow is the optimal music experience for both the musician and the listener. Researchers describe flow as a rewarding aspect of the musical experience—both for the performer and the listener. Once optimal flow is achieved, it creates a circular creative pattern of wanting to continue producing more emotionally impactful music. Despite the anecdotal evidence that links musical flow with higher emotional intelligence, there has still been a lack of in-depth research on the topic. What is known is that musicians who have higher levels of emotional intelligence tend to focus on flow and are able to engage in music creation for longer periods of time.
Helping children to deal with their emotions in a positive way is one of the chief advantages of participating in musical activities. Parents can help to encourage their children to develop an emotional connection to music before they are even old enough to participate in lessons on their own by introducing sounds and rhythms into their lives at an early age. As children grow up, it is important to nurture their musical interests and find new ways to engage them. Older children can also benefit, since learning social skills associated with high emotional intelligence will help them to navigate tough situations as they progress through school.
Over the last two decades, music has begun to play a more prominent role in video games. Many video game aficionados believe that music is one of the most significant parts of the video game experience. Over time, video game music has risen to a level comparable to that of movie soundtracks in terms of its importance to the overall entertainment experience.
Music appreciation and video game scores are not mutually exclusive, and many renowned orchestras have even gone so far as to recreate scores of popular video games in a live format. This was seen in the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s production of Rhapsody in Blue, which featured music from the classic Tetris video game. The Tokyo City Philharmonic Orchestra even performed orchestral video game music concerts that ran for five years and were led by one of the world's most renowned conductors, Koichi Sugiyama.
Video Game Music and the Arts
According to statistics, classical music in the United States has declined in popularity by nearly 30 percent since the year 2010. In fact, since many United States orchestras have faded in obscurity and suffered financial ruin as a result, interest in recreating the music of top video games has helped to foster a resurgence in public interest. By incorporating pop culture connected to video games, orchestras can stay afloat by appealing to younger audiences, and the impact of video games on the renewed popularity of classical music cannot be overstated.
In addition to driving digital sales and highlighting the importance of musical scores, the music used in video games also provides opportunities to collaborate with renowned composers and other musicians in order to create some of the most amazing video game music ever produced. For example, the London Symphony Orchestra collaborated in the production of The Legend of Zelda Symphony of the Goddesses video game score, in addition to the forthcoming Pokémon: Symphonic Evolutions.
A well-thought-out video game music score can engage gamers, and some have remarked that a compelling video game score will keep them interested in the game long after the novelty has worn off. A great musical score on a video game can take an average game and turn it into a superior game that undoubtedly earns new fans.
Music in the Final Fantasy Franchise
One of the most widely discussed video games in terms of musical scores is the Final Fantasy series. The Final Fantasy video games involve role playing and the best-selling video game series of all time. Alongside stunning visuals and interesting storylines, developers focused their attention on musical scores that are virtually unparalleled in the gaming industry. In many versions of Final Fantasy, music plays a central role in creating the overall gaming experience, and this has not gone unnoticed by music professionals. The music in in the Final Fantasy game series is intended to accompany the varied plots and mirrors the characters’ emotions.
One of the most profound music scores in the Final Fantasy series was seen in Final Fantasy VII’s One Winged Angel, which earned critical acclaim not only for the game itself, but for the associated musical score, which has been described as modern-day. This attention to detail when creating video games could explain how these games have maintained longevity beginning in the ‘90s all the way to the present. The music in Final Fantasy has been come so popular that even classical musicians have begun to hold video game-themed concerts such as the Final Symphony and Nintendo Music Celebration, which hosted its first-ever video game music concert in Japan in 2003.
The Final Fantasy video game series set the stage for a variety of other video games to follow suit. From Bioshock to Halo, video game music has generally become much more sophisticated. Aside from the fact that musicians perform video game scores more often now, once these video games are released, they often include chart-topping songs. Final Fantasy achieved this in 2016 when its soundtrack reached number 17 on the Classic FM Hall of Fame list.
EarthBound Offers Notable Music Selections
Another popular video game with notable music selections is EarthBound. While the game features a prominent Nintendo character, critics were more impressed with the musical score. The score on EarthBound has been described by some as a masterpiece, even though this game was made over 20 years ago, when video game music scores did not receive the respect that they have since then.
Music is integrated in nearly every aspect of the game, which itself has been described as exhilarating, thought-provoking, and mysterious. EarthBound was a formidable game in the market, yet its music is what sets it apart from the others. Despite the critical acclaim that it gained for its musical score, EarthBound received very little publicity and it’s possible that critics at the time did not fully understand the brilliance of the musical score.
Although video game music scores have not earned widespread respect, there has been a great deal of progress. One of the major benefits of including music in video games is that it can help to facilitate a connection between the gaming world and appreciation for various music genres. Music enthusiasts tend to be well-rounded individuals, and those who enjoy gaming will particularly understand that the experience can be augmented by a powerful musical score.