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.
Media sources, such as radio, TV, and the Internet, are gaining a stronger foothold in all of our lives. In fact, teens today spend about two and a half hours each day listening to music on their laptops, smartphones, and tablets. With unlimited access to billions of songs, young people can easily stumble upon new artists and styles of music, some of which you may not think are appropriate for your child’s age or level of emotional development. For example, 1 in 3 popular songs now contain references to using drugs or alcohol. Violent and sexually explicit lyrics are another huge problem.
There is so much in our children’s environment that we can’t control. However, by laying a little groundwork, we can exert some influence our children’s musical tastes. Read on for tips on how to have a say, even if it’s just a small one, in what music you children listen to.
Focus on Variety
One way to help your child develop a deep appreciation for all styles of music is to expose them to different genres as early as possible. For very young children, you should choose songs that feature prominent instruments, such as piano and guitar. To encourage your children to immerse themselves in the musical experience rather than just listen to the songs and sing along with them, you should purchase inexpensive replica instruments that they can “play” as an accompaniment the recording.
Having a diverse musical library that includes everything from classical to rock and roll will inevitably lead your child to be curious about other musical genres. A large collection also allows children to challenge themselves musically and teaches them to pick out various rhythms, keys, and tones within songs from an early age.
Don’t forget to show your kids how music affects you. When an oldie-but-goodie comes on the radio, don’t be shy—go ahead and belt it out. Your kids may not ever really like Pink Floyd, but they will come to realize that all types of music can bring people joy.
Talk to Your Child
Communication is an important part of influencing what your child listens to. Start by initiating a conversation with your child allowing him or her to explain to you why he or she listens to his or her favorite music. It's important to let your child know that not only are you looking out for his or her best interests, but you also value his or her opinion.
When having this discussion, avoid negativity and outright criticism of your child’s music, even if deep down you disapprove. If the lyrical content of the songs is a point of contention for you, try to focus on the parts of the music that you can appreciate. For example, if the music itself stirs certain emotions in your child or encourages him or her to become more physically active because of the song’s upbeat tempo, be sure to let your child know this. Unfortunately, the more you voice your disapproval of your child’s music, the more he or she will likely gravitate towards it.
By remaining objective and actively listening, you can show your child that you are truly hearing him or her with regard to his or her musical tastes. You may still wish to censor what your child listens to, but he or she will be more inclined to follow your rules than rebel if you approach the situation with an open mind.
Closely Monitor Your Child
Although many music educators do not believe in the concept of “too much music,” it is still up to parents to decide what their children may listen to. For younger children, it can be easier to purchase all of their music for them and carefully control what they have access to, but monitoring the listening habits of older children and teens can be a little more complicated.
Some parents may find it necessary to sit nearby, giving their input on which songs are acceptable and which ones they consider inappropriate as their child makes musical selections for his or her MP3 player. Doing this can encourage the child to make positive choices while remaining aware that a parent is monitoring him or her.
Giving your child a little bit of freedom to select his or her own music will ultimately help you and your child develop a rapport while giving him or her a sense of independence. It's important that parents keep in mind that occasionally listening to hip-hop or rock music has not been shown to have any significant impact on your child's long term development. Simply listening to a few songs will not usually turn into an obsession with a particular genre; therefore, it is important that you aren’t overly strict regarding your child’s musical selections.
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.
Finding music lessons geared towards infants or preschoolers can be quite challenging, as most programs are designed for older children. And even when you do find a suitable program, your child might find it difficult to separate from you for the duration of the lesson. The obvious solution to this dilemma is to find music classes that you can attend with your child.
Across the country, there are a variety of music programs that cater to both parent and child. More than just sitting in on your child's class, these classes teach you new musical skills as well. The following are three examples of parent/child music programs
1. Tot Rock
Music educator Aubree Windish founded Tot Rock in West Chester, Pennsylvania, to help children from 6 months to 4 years old develop an early appreciation of music and practice socialization skills. Not only do Tot Rock classes get parents involved with their kids, they come complete with take-home activities for parents and kids to work on together. This collaborative approach helps to strengthen bonds between parents and children while reinforcing the concepts that they learned in class.
All Tot Rock classes are 30 minutes long and place an emphasis on learning music theory. Classes can include movement, instruments, songs, and stories, and parents are welcome to join their children or allow them to interact with classmates on their own. For an additional 15 minutes after each class, children engage in free play, which is designed to encourage natural creativity and socialization. Parents also get to make friends and connect with each other in a relaxed, community-like environment.
2. Babies & Grands
Described as a multicultural experience for all generations, Babies & Grands classes lay the groundwork for a strong foundation in the fundamentals of music. Children not only learn the basics, but they also get the chance to do so with the help of residents of two nearby assisted living facilities. Of course, other family members are also welcome to attend the classes, and parent participation is strongly encouraged.
Led by experienced program director and performing artist Jenny Murphy, Babies & Grands has been working with children and parents in the Yonkers, New York, community for more than two decades. Ms. Murphy leads students in learning music scales and detailing the musical styles of various cultures.
The overall mission of Babies & Grands is to narrow generational gaps and help children develop a lifelong love of music. To read testimonials of satisfied parents, view class schedules, or sign up for a free introductory class, people can visit the Babies & Grands website at www.babiesandgrands.com.
3. Music Together
Founded in 1987, Music Together operates on the assumption that all children are capable of being musical and that children learn music best by watching their parents or other primary caregivers make music. As such, it provides a musically rich classroom environment that encourages interaction between parents and children aged 0 to 7. Music Together also furthers children’s learning by encouraging families to participate in daily musical activities in the home.
A pioneer in early childhood musical education, Music Together bases its curriculum on solid research in music and childhood development. The organization currently holds classes in over 40 countries around the world and partners with a wide variety of public and private schools, as well as other groups, to reach out to at-risk and underserved families.
For children ages 5 to 7, Music Together offers its Big Kids classes, which let them explore solfège, folk dances, harmony singing, and drumming. Big Kids classes include lots of movement and are specifically tailored to older kids’ sense of self and advancing developmental levels. All parents receive their own song book, recordings, and several other materials to help them augment their child’s learning experience at home.
Music Together also accommodates children with special needs, including those with physical, cognitive, or neurological conditions. In accordance with the program’s “accept and include” motto, Music Together’s mixed-age group classes welcome students with dealing with a variety of challenges.
These are just a few of the many innovative music programs designed to bring parents and children together. With so many options available nationwide, there is sure to be a parent/child music program in your area.
When it comes to music appreciation, one can never have too many resources. From in-person classes to YouTube videos, there are a huge variety of options available. Another great resource for music appreciation is the podcast.
Music appreciation podcasts are essentially recorded radio shows that can be accessed anywhere, anytime on laptops, desktop computers, and other Internet-capable devices. This ease of access allows individuals to learn about music appreciation on the go. Here, we explore some of the best music appreciation podcasts around.
Music and the Brain Audio Podcast
Provided courtesy of the Library of Congress, the Music and Brain Audio Podcast features notable composers, music theorists, performers, and a host of other music experts who share their knowledge of music theory. The Music and the Brain Audio Podcast also delves into topics that provide insight into the minds of musicians by speaking with cognitive psychologists and composers. This helps listeners understand how language and music are processed by the human brain.
One of the Music and the Brain Audio Podcast episodes is entitled The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature. In this particular episode, author Daniel Levitin enlightens listeners on music history and how it evolved from ancient languages.
Another episode in the series is Depression and Creativity Symposium. This episode explores the connection between mental health conditions (such as bipolar disorder and depression) and their link to creativity.
Yet another Music and the Brain Audio Podcast episode examines how music can possibly prevent - or encourage - criminal behavior. This podcast lecture, entitled Music, Criminal Behavior, and Crime Prevention, explores how music has been successfully used to curb criminal behavior.
From the Top
Hosted by renowned concert pianist Christopher O'Riley, From the Top highlights classical musicians on its weekly podcast. From the Top was originally a radio variety show hosted by Gerald Slavet and Jennifer Hurley-Wales. It has since evolved into an educational and entertaining show with millions of fans across the globe.
Popular topics on the From the Top podcast series are reports on prominent musicians, orchestras, and all things having to do with music appreciation. So far, From the Top has featured over 3,000 classical musicians and has broadcast more than 300 shows.
Music Magic with Chick Corea
Hosted by award-winning jazz legend Chick Corea, Music Magic with Chick Corea gives listeners an in-depth view of the process of creating music. Chick regularly interviews jazz legends as they detail the behind-the-scenes aspects of the creative process.
On his podcast, Chick Corea chats with music industry pals such as John Mayer, Stanley Clarke, and many more prominent musicians. Each of the conversations on Music Magic with Chick Corea are recorded with artists while in their element - on the road, in between studio sessions - allowing users to get a feel for the real life of a working musician.
Music Appreciation for the Rest of Us: Andrew Constantine Podcasts on Great Symphonic Masterworks
For anyone who's ever struggled with learning about music theory or music appreciation, the Music Appreciation for the Rest of Us podcast may help. Music Appreciation for the Rest of Us regularly features topics such as reviews of classical music, in-depth analysis of 20th-century symphonies, and a variety of other topics closely tied to music appreciation.
Music Appreciation for the Rest of Us is hosted by Andrew Constantine, who is the former music director of Reading Symphony Orchestra. Although the podcast is no longer in production, each episode is available through a variety of outlets, including Apple’s iTunes store.
Meet the Composer
Though most people love music in some form, few take time to really ponder who actually created some of the world’s most beloved songs. Hosted by successful violist Nadia Sirota, the Peabody Award-winning Meet the Composer podcast highlights some of today's most well-known composers.
Each episode in the Meet the Composer series gives listeners an inside look at how composers develop their material, their thought processes during the time of creation, and other inside information that can't be found anywhere else. The goal of the Meet the Composer podcasts is to open a new world of music to listeners.
Meet the Composer achieves this goal by helping listeners make the connection between the music they hear every day and the composers who make it possible. Those interested in checking out the Meet the Composer podcast can subscribe via iTunes. Updates are regularly posted on the show’s Facebook and Twitter pages.
Listening to podcasts focused on music appreciation is not only entertainment. Podcasts also give listeners a totally different perspective on the history of music and how much effort it takes to complete a musical piece. For younger audiences, listening to music appreciation podcasts help bring composers of popular songs to the forefront, rather than placing all of the attention and accolades on performers.
Students who enjoy music should be exposed to as many different genres as possible during the learning process. Exposure to music can be augmented by visiting a few of the most group-friendly museums in the United States. From the Museum of Pop Culture to the Musical Instrument Museum, you are sure to find the perfect museum to explore on your next student group tour.
1. The American Jazz Museum
Located in Kansas City, Missouri, the American Jazz Museum highlights the most legendary performers in the genre, including Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, and Charlie Parker, to name a few. The museum’s most popular exhibits include the Charlie Parker Memorial, as well as the Changing Gallery. The American Jazz Museum highlights the historical contributions of jazz, displaying classic album covers, memorabilia, and over 100 classic jazz recordings.
The American Jazz Museum also showcases professional jazz musicians and hosts performances regularly in the Blue Room, a working jazz club that is open several nights during the week. Mondays are especially lively, as visitors are treated to the best and brightest jazz performers.
Additionally, the American Jazz Museum is home to the Gem Theater. Originally built in 1912, it features a 500-seat performing arts center. The Gem Theater has become known for its annual Jammin’ at The Gem concert series, and the theater is home to a variety of events throughout the year.
2. Museum of Popular Culture
Formerly the EMP Museum, the Museum of Popular Culture (MoPOP) is located in Seattle and features futuristic and musically driven displays of all that is symbolic of pop music. MoPOP is particularly interesting for students, who have the opportunity to participate in interactive exhibits, including the sound lab that features professional musical equipment such as guitars and drums, all enclosed in a soundproof room. The Museum of Pop Culture highlights the best in ‘80s and ‘90s pop and rock, including Seattle’s own Nirvana exhibit, which tells the story of the group’s rise to fame through a variety of artifacts, exclusive performance footage, and stories told by those close to the group.
3. Glenn Miller Museum
Big band leader Glenn Miller was an accomplished composer, arranger, and American bandleader who mysteriously disappeared during World War II. Opened in 2010, the Glenn Miller Museum is located in the musician’s hometown of Clarinda, Iowa, and pays homage to its namesake classic big band leader. The museum is furnished with historical memorabilia true to the to the time period during the height of Miller’s popularity.
The Glenn Miller Theatre also hosts the annual Glenn Miller Festival. This year’s event will take place from June 8-11. The festival, which is intended to celebrate Glenn Miller’s music and legacy, will feature historical displays, dances, stage shows, and the opportunity for Glenn Miller fans to socialize with each other. The popularity of the museum continues to grow every year, and the Glenn Miller Festival has been honored four times as one of the top 100 events in North America, according to the American Bus Association.
4. Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
Located in Cleveland, Ohio, on the shores of Lake Erie, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is a stunning glass pyramid-shaped building housing artifacts from past and present influencers in the rock genre. Visitors can view personal belongings of their favorite musicians, including costumes and instruments, as well as rare collectors’ items. The museum features 150,000 square feet of space spanning seven floors with stages for special events and multiple screening rooms for films.
Each year, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame holds an induction ceremony. This year’s ceremony will be held on April 7 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The 42nd annual event will include the Electric Light Orchestra, Pearl Jam, Tupac Shakur, Yes, Journey, and Joan Baez as inductees, along with several celebrity presenters.
5. Musical Instrument Museum
Located in Phoenix, Arizona, the Musical Instrument Museum has only been open for six years, but it has already been recognized as among the top musical attractions in the United States. The Musical History Museum caters to visitors of all ages by providing an experience that allows them to get up close and personal with the instruments of the world’s most revered musicians.
The Musical Instrument Museum features five distinct musical galleries where students can explore the instruments of artists such as Eric Clapton, John Lennon, Elvis Presley, and even the Black Eyed Peas. In addition, The Musical Instrument Museum features a theater that seats 300 people that is designed to host concerts and events held by various artists. Visitors can also purchase items at the museum’s retail shop, and the Museum of Musical Instruments offers interactive guided tours for groups of 10 or more.
Music instructors planning a class museum tour may want to poll their students with options to gauge where they would like to visit and what they would like to learn about. This can be a great way to engage students and foster comradery.
Studying classical piano technique has been shown to increase competence in nearly all forms of music. Classical piano is the style most beginners learn—there are an abundance of instructors able to teach it, and it enjoys a high level of prestige as the music created by master composers like Mozart, Beethoven, and Chopin.
Although classical piano music differs from contemporary piano, a good pianist will not only have an appreciation for both, they will actively work to understand the nuances of each musical style. Appreciating the two styles—as well as their corresponding methods of instruction—allows musicians to have a broader repertoire when it comes to playing the piano and also will give them a wider range of opportunities in the future.
Contemporary vs Classical Piano Instruction
Contemporary piano instruction typically focuses on teaching chords, which are sets of three (or sometimes two) notes on the keyboard that produce a specific sound when played together. Pop, jazz, and rock songs are often structured around sets of chords—they are the building blocks of contemporary music. This focus on chords is the main area where contemporary piano technique differs from classical piano. Students instructed in the classical style typically focus on learning to read individual notes on sheet music. There’s more emphasis on playing music that’s been written down in the sheet music notation system, instead of playing by ear.
Contemporary, chord-based instruction may involve chord charts, which resemble diagrams of the keyboard with indications where to place the fingers to produce specific chords. For absolute beginners, this kind of notation is more intuitive and easier to understand than classical sheet music, which uses a more complex set of symbols. In chord-based instruction, students learn progressions of a chord that start with a certain key and move up the scale. For example, a chord progression in the key of F starts at the F key and proceeds to higher notes, producing different tones in the same key.
The contemporary chord-based approach to piano lessons is often described as less formal than classical piano instruction. Learning chords instead of deciphering sheet music encourages improvisation, and may lead to a better understanding of broader concepts like rhythm and tone. Chord-based instruction also helps pianists learn to play by ear and compose their own pieces, since they can hear a sound and immediately reproduce it on their instrument. Contemporary piano instruction may also provide better preparation for playing in bands and ensembles. In addition, some classical piano teachers may focus too heavily on rote memorization of pieces, though this isn’t an inherent part of the classical technique. But this approach can bore students and discourage them from proceeding in their studies.
On the other hand, classical piano technique can’t be matched when it comes to teaching agility and speed and enabling students to play complex pieces. Those trained in classical technique essentially have mastered a second language, because they can read sheet music. And if you’ve ever seen a classical pianist perform, you know that it can be truly amazing to watch their fingers fly across the keyboard in different directions at top speed.
Transitioning between the Two Styles
If you began your studies of the piano focusing only on classical technique, you may wish to learn more about contemporary piano—or vice versa. One of the easiest ways to switch from classical to contemporary piano is to learn chord progressions, so you can experiment and improvise with the sounds.
Hanon exercises are a great way to practice chord progressions when switching from classical to contemporary piano. One of the best resources available is the Hanon to Jazz book. This instructional guide was written with classically trained players in mind and is full of exercises that help the musician become more comfortable playing contemporary music.
Even just doing a quick Internet search of common jazz chord progressions can help any musician understand jazz theory concepts. Studying common patterns in jazz is similar to learning a new language, and the more the musician studies, the deeper their understanding will be. Additionally, studying contemporary songs is a good way to understand chords and how they provide structure to pop songs.
Another way to get acquainted with the structure and form of contemporary music is by transcribing. The idea is to have the musician pay attention to the sounds that they hear on certain recordings. As the musician listens, they write down observations and note where they hear bars that are easy to distinguish. Participating in this type of exercise will help the musician figure out the correct tones and rhythms, and may even help them compose their own pieces in the future.
Regardless of the style of music, it’s important to appreciate what each has to offer. In addition, if one style of music inspires passion and the other does not, it’s often better to go with what feels more natural for the musician. And of course, there’s no rule that says a musician with a background in contemporary piano can only play contemporary music, or that classically trained pianists can only play music written before 1850. Explore different styles of music, and play what speaks to you.
Studies have demonstrated the positive effects music can have on a person’s life, and kids who learn to play music tend to perform better academically than their peers. Music-loving parents often look for new and creative ways to share their love of music with their kids. After all, what better way to spend time together than introducing your kids to the music you grew up with and love?
This year, instead of remembering the pre-kid music festival fun you used to enjoy, pack your kids and take them with you. Make your plans now to attend one of the following festivals. Who knows? It might be the beginning of a lifetime of music appreciation for your child.
Joshua Tree Music Festival (California)
With bands and musicians from all over the world, the Joshua Tree Music Festival is a global experience. Located in Southern California, the festival is a three-day celebration of family, friends, and good music. Kidsville, the specially designed area built just for children, offers magic shows, craft activities, roaming performers, and classes your kids will love. Accommodations at nearby hotels and camping at Joshua Tree National Park provide easy access to all the activities of the weekend, so you can get back to the action quickly. Look for this festival twice a year, in May and October.
Love the feeling of sand on your feet and the sound of music in the air? Head to West Palm Beach, Florida, at the end of April for SunFest, a weekend of classic and new sounds, showcased along the Intracoastal Waterway. Fireworks, arts and crafts, a KidZone, and a special early morning concert are all geared toward the youngest music fans, so don’t leave your kids at home. Music from a wide range of genres is represented, with previous years bringing in acts such as Meghan Trainor, Duran Duran, and The Roots.
Austin Kiddie Limits (Texas)
One of the most well-known music festivals in the country, Austin City Limits (ACL), has created a weekend experience for music lovers to enjoy with their kids. Austin Kiddie Limits takes place the same weekends as ACL, and is completely free for children ages 10 and under. The kid-friendly fun includes rock star hairdo stylists, fake tattoo parlors, karaoke contests, a hip hop festival, and more. Past acts at ACL include musical stars like Willie Nelson, Mumford & Sons, Radiohead, and other big names. With thousands of attendees each year, it’s easy to see that even music festivals are bigger in Texas.
Described as part family reunion, part summer camp, and part music festival, Pickathon is a music festival like no other. With a full lineup of activities to keep kids engaged and entertained, the whole family can enjoy this festival from start to finish. There are separate activity tents for kids, complete with a circus, wilderness training, crafts, and other fun things to do. Past performers include 10 String Symphony, Yo La Tengo, Jeff Tweedy, and others. If alternative or indie music is your jam, this is the perfect festival for you and your family.
This free, 10-day event brings musicians of all genres together for a show-stopping annual festival. Local performers, games, food, and craft vendors are plentiful during the festival, along with headliner acts such as Aretha Franklin, Lady Antebellum, and more. Headliner shows require a ticket, but there are plenty of free entertainment options to make this the perfect family outing.
Lake Eden Arts Festival (North Carolina)
Twice a year, families and music lovers converge near Asheville, North Carolina, for an epic weekend of music, nature, and family fun. Families can enjoy outdoor activities such as zip-lining or canoeing, browse through rows of artisan displays, take in a concert at one of several stages, or enjoy a parade. And that’s just the beginning. This festival offers something for kids of all ages, and showcases quality music that everyone can dance and sing along to.
Taste of Country (New York)
Scheduled during the early weeks of summer, the Taste of Country music festival brings some of country’s hottest new stars together for incredible performances in the Catskills. Featuring a petting zoo, a mechanical bull, a children’s playground, and more, this two-day fest is pure fun. Stay near the stage in your tent or RV, or find accommodations in a nearby hotel.
Wondering if a music festival is right for your family? Consider trying out a festival with your kids if they enjoy being outdoors, don’t mind crowds and a bit of walking, and appreciate new sounds and music. There are festivals taking place all over the country; find one nearby and check it out. No matter your budget, you can find one that will let you share the excitement and fun of discovering new music with your kids, giving you both a weekend to remember.