Children who study music from a young age are poised to gain many benefits from the experience, including better language development, improved spatial-temporal skills, and higher test scores. If your child expresses an interest in music, you can help him or her develop a stronger curiosity and love for the subject using these helpful tips:
1. Expose your child to music from a young age.
By making music part of daily life, parents can significantly influence their child’s ability to appreciate all that music has to offer. Playing music for children in the car, singing with them, and giving them the opportunity to watch musical television shows are all excellent ways to introduce music in a fun and stimulating way. Parents can also make early music discovery an adventure by working with their children to create musical instruments from ordinary household items like pots, pans, pans, and spoons, or by going to the library to check out CDs with kid-friendly songs.
2. Make instruments readily available at home.
Kids may also become excited about pursuing music if they are free to explore a variety of instruments in their home. Therefore, parents should leave an instrument, like a guitar or drum, on display where their child can easily pick it up. A piano can be especially beneficial for early music exposure at home, as children can generally begin to experiment with the instrument once they are physically big enough to reach the keys and develop the hand dexterity to push them down.
3. Look into private music lessons.
If a child shows a specific interest in music, his or her parents should consider enlisting the help of a professional to foster that passion. While a teacher’s qualifications are important, his or her ability to interact positively with a child on a personal level is vital. To find a music teacher who specializes in instructing kids, parents should consider soliciting recommendations, holding interviews, and attending recitals held by prospective teachers to determine whether or not the instructor will be a good fit for their son or daughter.
4. Give your child a special practice space.
Children who commit to an instrument may be more motivated to practice if they have a designated space in which to do so. Ideally, the practice space should be situated in a quiet, organized area where siblings, television, and other distractions cannot intrude. It is also a good idea to equip the practice space with pencils, music stands, paper, and other tools that young music students might need.
5. Incorporate practice into your child’s daily routine.
To encourage musical development, parents should make practice part of their child’s daily schedule. Parents can make this time more appealing by scheduling pleasurable activities around the practice session. For example, kids could enjoy snack time before practice and play time afterwards.
6. Be supportive under all circumstances.
Parents should always visibly support their child’s efforts regardless of his or her level of musical ability. For example, if a child wants to showcase a newly developed talent or practice a song, parents need to devote their attention to the performance and make honest, encouraging remarks. It can also be helpful for parents to regularly ask about how their children’s lessons are progressing and check in with them at regular intervals about their interest in music.
Additionally, when a young music student reaches a milestone such as memorizing a new song or performing in a recital, parents should find a way to celebrate their child’s accomplishment. Doing so may help children stay motivated to continue their studies when the lessons become challenging.
7. Don’t try to control your child’s musical progress.
Parents who see true musical potential in their children may be tempted to force them to practice longer hours or study an instrument that doesn’t interest them. However, experts suggest that it is better in the long term to let a child’s talents develop naturally, and most recommend that parents support their child’s decision if he or she wishes to switch instruments or focus on an activity outside of music. Creating an understanding environment where a child feels comfortable pursuing his or her own individual interests is ultimately better for the child’s healthy development.
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.
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.
While the most popular musical instrument to play changes each year, certain instruments remain perennial favorites among music students of all ages in the United States. Aspiring music students can learn more about the history and technical aspects of the three most beloved instruments in the following.
The guitar has established itself as one of the most widely played instruments in modern-day America, and its influence can be seen in a diverse range of musical genres. A versatile instrument, the guitar offers many style of play, ranging from rock and roll and country music to classical and jazz.
Historians believe that the earliest ancestor of the guitar first appeared in Spain in the early 1500s, although the modern version familiar to us today did not appear until the late 1800s. The early “guitarra latina,” as it was called, had a waist that was much less pronounced than today’s guitar and a much narrower body with a deeper sound made by plucking four courses of strings tuned to C, F, A, and D. By the end of the 1700s, the guitar had six single strings tuned to E, A, D, B, G, and E, which is today’s standard.
Guitars are made in both acoustic and electric varieties, each with its own set of subtypes. The most common four types of guitars are the nylon string and steel string acoustics, the hollow body, and the solid body electric. The nylon string guitar is almost singularly used to perform classical and flamenco pieces, while the invention of the steel string acoustic gave rise to the less technical, but more nuanced play patterns employed by artists in musical genres such as jazz and the blues. The creation of the hollow body electric had a particularly significant impact on jazz guitarists, who used the instrument’s amplified volume to make themselves better heard among the many other instruments at play in jazz ensembles. When the solid body electric guitar was invented, musicians were able to create the signature sound that characterizes rock music. The solid body electric guitar is the most popular form of the instrument among young musicians today.
The piano is a foundational instrument that professionals say children can begin to learn before the age of 6, provided that they have finger dexterity and their hands are sufficiently large enough. Around 21 million Americans play the piano, and its versatility allows it to assume the lead or fade into the background of songs that span a wide range of musical genres.
Some may be surprised to learn that the piano is a string instrument. The strings are encased within the instrument’s body and resonate when struck by hammers connected to the movement of the keys. As a result, it is also considered a keyboard instrument and was preceded by the invention of the clavichord in the 1300s, followed by the harpsichord in the early 1500s. The first true piano was invented by Italian harpsichord producer Bartolomeo di Francesco Cristofori in 1698, and it subsequently shaped much of the writing and playing styles of composers in 18th century Europe. Although some adjustments have been made since Cristofori’s early invention, such as increased string tension that significantly improved the instrument’s dynamic range, the modern piano is strikingly similar to those played in the 1700s.
The piano exists in three primary styles: upright and grand, which are acoustic, and digital pianos, which are electric. The upright piano has shorter, vertical strings compared with the grand piano, which has long, horizontal strings. The hammers in an upright piano are reset using spring-based mechanisms, whereas the hammers on a grand piano are reset by gravity, which makes each piano’s keys feel different to the touch when played.
Drums are among the world’s oldest instruments, and they continue to draw the interest of musicians of all ages. The drums play a crucial supporting role in the sound of any band and are even used as a therapeutic tool to foster positive social and emotional development in children with disabilities.
The earliest discovered drums date back thousands of years BC. The drums were fashioned from objects such as tree trunks, gourds, or shells covered with a thin membrane comprised of reptile or fish skin, and were played with the hands. Later versions of the drum contained membranes made from the skin of mammals and were played using sticks. Along with its recreational value, drums also provided early populations in Sri Lanka and some African countries with a means of communicating over a distance as early as 1000 to 500 BC. The first snare drum was developed in the mid-17th century, and by the early 19th century drums were incorporated into orchestral compositions. By the 1930s, the world was familiar with the four-piece drum kit that set the stage for many starter drum sets that new musicians are familiar with today.
While there are numerous types of drums that vary in popularity from one country to another, the one most commonly used in the United States is the drum kit, which in its most basic form consists of a snare drum, bass drum, several tom-toms, and a collection of cymbals. Although cymbals vary based on a drummer’s needs, a kit typically has a single cymbal along with a hi-hat, which is comprised of two cymbals connected by a foot pedal that allows the cymbals to crash together and come apart in time with the beat of a song.
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.
Studies have shown that children who pursue music education gain a multitude of benefits, including larger vocabularies, better study skills, and even a lower risk of substance abuse. Additionally, studying music early in life can influence brain development and improve a child’s capacity for memory. In order to help a young student take advantage of these and other benefits, parents should keep the following tips in mind when helping their child decide which instrument they should play.
1. Consider the child’s age.
There is a debate over when children should begin attending music lessons for the first time. While some experts suggest that children can begin music instruction at an age as young as three, others suggest waiting until the child is at least four or five years old to start. Signing a young child up for music lessons too early can result in frustration and boredom that prevents them from enjoying the process of developing their talent, leading them to ultimately reject music lessons throughout childhood. With that established, there are certain musical instruments that younger children will find easier to learn to play.
Piano is an excellent instrument for early learners, as young children can begin to practice as soon as they are physically capable of reaching the keys and have the hand strength required to push them down. Simpler instruments like the recorder are also a good option in the early years. A child can begin to practice the recorder as soon as their fingers can cover the instrument’s holes, and this can establish a path to playing other wind instruments like the clarinet, flute, or bassoon at an older age. Violin may also be an acceptable option for children around the age of five, as the instrument can be purchased in small sizes designed to fit small hands. Larger stringed instruments such as the cello or bass are better left to older children who are physically better equipped to play them.
As a child reaches the age of eight, more options become possible. At this age, fractional size guitars become easier for a child to learn, as well as small woodwind instruments like the flute and clarinet. These instruments are easier for a child to play when he or she has the physical ability to support them and play at the same time. By the age of 10, it is generally fine for a child to start lessons on any instrument, including larger, more difficult choices like the saxophone, trombone, or cello. Some woodwind instruments are better left to children whose front adult teeth have stabilized, as playing with gaps where teeth have yet to grow can cause difficulty.
2. Consider the child’s personality.
The child’s personality should play a significant role in the instrument that he or she chooses to play. Certain instruments lend themselves more toward energetic, extroverted children, while others are better suited for those who are quiet and introverted. For example, the flute may be a more fitting instrument for children who have no qualms about being center stage. Flutists are generally positioned toward the front of a band, and a child who plays the flute must be comfortable with being stationed in front of others during performances. Other instruments like saxophone and trumpet are lead instruments frequently featured in solos and melody lines, which may be a better fit for outgoing children who are comfortable in the spotlight.
Children who exhibit introverted, quieter personalities may enjoy learning to play the piano, an instrument they can practice independently and use to provide melodic background support to others or continue to perform solo. Children who are on the shy or quiet side may also enjoy stringed instruments like the violin, viola, and cello, which give them the opportunity to contribute to a musical number as a part of a group, rather than bringing singular attention to themselves during a performance. Children who are extremely independent and technical may enjoy an instrument like guitar, while children with hyperactive or restless qualities may find an outlet in drums and percussion instruments.
3. Consider the child’s personal preference.
Ultimately, if a child shows a passion for or an interest in a specific instrument, that should be the instrument that he or she pursues. Children who are allowed to practice an instrument that they have chosen for themselves will be more likely to commit to the practice it takes to become proficient. In addition, they will be less likely to quit when practicing music becomes complicated or frustrating. Parents who choose instruments for their children to play without the child’s input may be disappointed when their child becomes frustrated and gives up the instrument entirely later on.
If a child does not show interest in any particular instrument, parents should consider letting him or her try out a variety of instruments before settling on one. After all, children will benefit from the pursuit of music no matter which instrument they decide to practice. In addition, parents must be prepared to actively support their children’s musical endeavors, attend concerts, and provide them with the tools they need to foster a positive relationship with music that carries over into their adult lives.
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.
The benefits of music have been stated time and time again, and it seems that researchers are uncovering new information all the time. Basic academic skills such as reading comprehension have been extensively studied by researchers with a focus on how they can be improved through music participation. One of the main reasons why music and reading skills are so intertwined is the type of brain activity that is needed to accomplish both tasks. Reading and playing music both require a great deal of focus and precision.
One particular study followed music students to determine how much their reading skills would improve over the course of a year. At the end of the study, it was determined that the reading scores of the 9- and 10-year-old students remained consistent. On the contrary, students who did not participate in music instruction did not see the same kind of improvement. Instead, a decline in overall scores was observed.
Auditory Perception and Other Neural Processes
The process of learning to read and to play a musical instrument share similarities. One of the shared requirements of learning to read and to play music is auditory perception. In essence, auditory perception is the way in which we hear things in order for the brain to properly interpret the sounds. Research studies have shown that learning music inevitably improves one’s auditory skills, thus helping to improve reading skills. Additionally, there are other connections between auditory perception skills and changes in the brain that help to facilitate learning.
Researchers have concluded that music instruction can initiate changes in the nervous system that facilitate learning. According to a researcher at Northwestern University, after hundreds of high school students in Los Angeles and Chicago public schools were studied, it was determined that learning music vastly improved their memory and overall focus. The results were attributed to improved neural function. At the conclusion of the study, it was noted that those children who participated in at least five hours per week of music lessons did not see any decline in reading levels. This research on auditory perception and its relationship to reading scores was presented to the American Psychological Association for further review.
In line with what the aforementioned studies found, other research has examined how music impacts brainwaves and other psychological processes. Children who see a note on paper are taught to recognize and interpret what they are seeing, much like what is involved in reading words. By taking music lessons, students continuously reinforce these connections, and the brain learns to easily recognize and interpret various forms of information with greater efficiency.
Brainwaves were measured by tests that gathered data, then converted it into a phonological awareness score. The phonological awareness score showed a small, yet statistically significant difference in scores between those students who undertook formal musical instruction versus those who did not. The results indicated that not only are music students able to pick up on reading faster, but they also develop a faster response to sounds and have a better ability to distinguish between sounds.
Improvements in Writing
Reading ability is not only positively influenced by music instruction, but writing skills have also shown improvement, as well. Since writing and music both require some level of introspection, it is easy to see how these two are related. Not only has music instruction been shown to improve academic writing skills, but it also has a profound effect on a student’s ability to write music.
The complementary effect has been demonstrated through music writing activities, which include at least 10 minutes dedicated to relaxation so that students are able to tap into their creative side. Activities such as writing music help students to develop storylines and learn how to present them to others. Whatever feelings or emotions that students have during the activity are shared in song, and this can be especially beneficial to those who have been bullied (either in or out of school) and can help them to effectively deal with negative emotions.
Data Is Promising
While researchers admit that there is no definitive connection between music and reading skills, the data so far provides clues on how brain function relates to music and how this impacts reading proficiency. Researchers urge that caution should be used when stating that music heavily influences literacy, since more in-classroom studies need to be conducted before a definitive conclusion can be made.
Despite the fact that the research is still in the preliminary stages, the data so far is promising. The causal link between music instruction and better reading skills is yet another reason to get children involved in music as early as possible. Educators may also benefit from exploring the connection between the two.
Although technology has played a role in the American education system for quite some time, music programs in particular have been slow to integrate it into the classroom. In addition to the usual resistance to funding the arts, this delay is often due in part to the physical layout of the typical music classroom, where crowded students typically have little-to-no desk space, thus making the use of electronic keyboards highly impractical.
Despite these challenges, most music educators believe in the value of educational technology. In a 2013 PBS survey, teachers reported that technology increased their students’ desire to learn and reinforced and built upon previous classwork.
Additionally, using modern technological tools in the music classroom can free up some of a teacher's limited instructional time by making routine tasks faster and easier. It can also improve communication between students and teachers, as well as between teachers and parents.
The following are two ways that music teachers can add technology to their classrooms to augment the learning process:
Mobile Devices for Sheet Music
Of all the technological advances used in the classroom, the tablet is arguably the most popular. One of the best uses of the tablet in a musical classroom setting is as a replacement or substitute for paper sheets of music. Instead of dealing with multiple pages of sheet music, students can access all of their materials on this device with just a few taps. Using a tablet for this purpose eliminates the huge problem of students losing their music, thereby removing a major source of frustration for teachers. In addition, students can use tablets to compose songs, access apps, and view study materials and test scores. And best of all, the average tablet doesn’t take up much size and is easy to carry and store, unlike electronic keyboards.
One app that music teachers heartily endorse is Piano Street, which gives kids access to over 3,000 classical piano study scores and more than 20,000 pages of sheet music. It also offers practice guides, an audio-video study tool, a music dictionary, and a forum, in which students can read about a wide variety of piano-related topics. Other popular technology options for the music classroom that work well with tablets include Garage Band, Ear trainer, and real piano pro.
Another great way to include technology in the music classroom is through a digital, or “interactive,” whiteboard. These interactive devices allow teachers to share information on a user-friendly screen that is much more sophisticated than an old fashioned chalk board or dry-erase board.
Interactive whiteboards combine touchscreen technology with a projector connected to a PC or laptop, so any information or documents stored on the computer can be easily displayed on the board for all the students to see. Students can share ideas and explore concepts by physically interacting with the objects on the screen, and teachers can even enhance the interactive whiteboard experience with special pens and erasers. Many instructors also use interactive whiteboards to play instructional videos.
Teachers can use interactive whiteboards to introduce new vocabulary words, demonstrate rhythm and tone, instruct students in musical notation, and more. To really engage students, teachers can have their class use this technology to create and play their own original compositions. For inspiration, there are numerous online resources available, including lesson files and templates developed by other music teachers.
Undeniably, technology has infiltrated nearly every part of our lives, and it is rapidly changing the way we learn. Music instructors must not only have the desire to bring technology into the classroom, they should also be willing to familiarize themselves with the latest technology and figure out how to best implement it. Children are comfortable using technology in other areas of their lives, and most will adapt very easily to technology in the music classroom. Therefore, teachers don’t need to worry about their students struggling to overcome a steep learning curve.
Music teachers might have to explain to administrators how implementing technology in music classrooms can benefit the school as a whole. To ensure that all students in the class have access to technology, teachers, administrators, and parent groups can work together to find grants and donors, or hold fundraising events.
Many children and adults alike take music lessons for popular instruments such as the piano, the guitar, and the violin. However, some music students develop an interest in playing difficult instruments, including the bagpipes, the organ, and even the French horn. Find out why these instruments are sometimes regarded as difficult and discover key tips that will make the learning process easier.
The organ was a popular instrument during medieval times in Europe as well as in ancient Rome and Greece, where the instrument was mainly played at sporting events. Today, the organ is usually played in houses of worship. This type of organ is better known as the chamber organ.
Many people mistakenly think the organ and the piano are very similar. This is understandable considering most people have never played both instruments. Though on the surface it it may seem that the organ and the piano are similar, in reality, they're quite different. For starters, the organ has multiple keyboards rather than the single keyboard of the piano.
In addition, the organ can be played with the feet or the hands, making it both unique and difficult to learn at the same time. Considering the fact that the hands and feet have to work in unison, learning to play the organ can be intimidating for a beginner. However, with proper instruction and adequate practice time, the organ can eventually be mastered just like any other instrument.
As one of the oldest musical instruments in the world, drums aren't necessarily considered a non-traditional instrument. However, they are one of the most challenging instruments for several reasons.
A member of the percussion group, drums are straightforward in terms of design, featuring the drum itself and the accompanying drumsticks. Despite its simple design, the drum requires a precise playing technique, which some students find it difficult to master even in a group setting.
Some believe that the drums are simultaneously the easiest and hardest instrument to learn. Sure, it's relatively easy to tap the drum with the drumsticks, but the challenge lies in maintaining harmonies and keeping the hands and feet in sync. As with any instrument, mastery of the drums comes with adequate practice.
3. French Horn
Bagpipes come in a variety of styles, from the Northumbrian smallpipes to the Asturian gaita. According to the Oxford History of Music, the origins of bagpipes can be traced back to 1000 BC. Bagpipes have endured peaks and valleys in popularity throughout the centuries, yet they have never completely fallen out of favor. Typical settings include parades, military events, as well as memorial events.
The bagpipes are unique in that they are comprised of several components, all of which contribute to their distinct sound. Bagpipes can play nine notes, which are produced through continuous pressure from the musician. What makes playing the bagpipes seem especially difficult is the amount of wind needed to produce sound - something many beginners struggle with.
Initially, learning any of the instruments detailed here will require a certain degree of added effort. However, it's important to persevere through what could prove to be a significant learning curve. Regardless of the student's age, learning any new instrument will take some getting used to.
If your child is interested in playing a more difficult instrument, consider allowing them to play a similar (but easier) instrument first. Also, it might be easier to learn to play a more complicated instrument after the child has already mastered one instrument and is looking for a challenge by adding to their repertoire of instruments.
Some may argue that the reputation of these instruments is unfounded. Practically speaking, nearly every instrument can be viewed as difficult to learn from a beginner’s standpoint.
All instruments come with unique playing challenges that can be seen as difficult depending on the musician’s perspective and individual preferences. In the end, mindset is more closely tied to successfully mastering an instrument than its perceived ease or difficulty.