We can all agree that music has a massive impact on our lives because it’s everywhere we go. It has the power to alter our mood and change the whole feel of a room at any moment. Today I will try to look at just why is it that this sound is so important to us? Imagine that moment when your favorite song comes on the radio, or a piece of music is played you love so much that you remember exactly where you were the first time you heard it. That’s one of the things that makes music special for me and I know it does you as well.
Truthfully it’s a fact of life that we don’t all love every kind of music. It’s that specific taste that sets each of us apart, so much so that many of us would even go as far as saying we couldn’t live without our music of choice. I started playing music at the young age of five, learning everything I could about country guitar and its players during that time. I know at the exact I heard a five-string banjo for the first-time bluegrass was going to be my music of choice. Something inside of us longs to hear or produce that magical sound that stimulates our very soul.
Now over the years my love for all styles of music has matured and grown. I can enjoy great classical music event right down to a good country square dance. The wonderful thing about music is as musicians we appreciate and admire all musicians and their individual styles. Unlike other pleasures in life, music has no immediate value, but with so many different genres it can reach out and move so many different people in all kinds of ways.
One of the strongest statements I heard is there is no barrier in music because music is a medium through which anyone can speak. There are no language or age barriers because it is a universal language. Several years ago, I had the honor of hearing a singer with a marvelous voice sing a spiritual number in a local music store in the German tongue. Even though I couldn’t understand not one word of his performance the tone of the music moved me to the point that I fully understood every word. Point proven that music is a universal language.
Through tones and vibrations our minds receive messages from music that we process as good and bad. Each of us has developed our own music taste with this individual but natural sorting process. For example, I have never understood or liked some of the so-called hard rock or rap music. Something about the tone and the way it’s performed has no effect or appeal on me at all. But I love the sound of what is called today vintage rock or southern rock. I grew up listening to it all my life and that brings me to another point I wish to make. Even though I can’t find any material to back me up on this statement I feel we often choose our musical preferences on what we heard the most growing up. If you were raised around a big city or exposed to hard rock or rap music more than likely you will lean toward that style of music the rest of your life. Not saying we can’t or won’t change our taste later in life but more than likely the tones we heard even in the womb before our birth steered us in our musical direction of today.
Have you ever noticed regardless of the genre, when the right chords are combined most of us will get goose bumps or a chill up our spine? The scientific term for this reaction is “frissons”. We can also get these by just looking at a piece of art work or watching a movie but are more common in the sounds produced by music. Why do so many people get the chills when the music is just right? Researchers tell us that because music stimulates an ancient reward pathway in the brain, it encourages dopamine to flood the front of the brain. This is a part of the forebrain's reaction caused by an activation of things like addiction, reward, and motivation. Certain music has always had that effect on me as I know it has you. Music can be a lifelong friend, our companion in life's travels. It can motivate us like nothing else can and is a huge part of our everyday lives.
No one really knows and we may never know the true answer to that question, “What Makes Music So Special”. I do know that music moves each of us in our own unique way. It can bring on happy feelings along with sad ones and we should all learn to appreciate all the different styles and the musicians who make this possible.
Taking Local Music To The World.
If you have been following my weekly blog you know last week I wrote about how to properly choose an instrument for children. A well-fitted instrument is just as important to adults as well. This week I’m focusing on the senior citizen who has always wanted to play an instrument but felt like it was too late to get started. This year I am celebrating 41 years as a music educator and have taught several thousand students from the age of 4 to 94. Yes, I've had to change a little in my teaching style for seniors but learning in your golden years isn't impossible and can be a lot of fun for most who try.
Perhaps if you’re reading this article you might be an adult who’s always been interested in learning an instrument but were told not to try because music is something best learned as a child; adults have a much harder time mastering an instrument. Now you have developed fears that you’re just too old and it’s too late in life to start, right? Wrong! Learning music has such a wide range of benefits that will change your life in a positive direction.
Apart from being one of the best stress-relievers known to modern medicine and mankind, music also improves your health. It enhances your cognitive function, problem solving, and muscle memory. Some of the benefits for adults/ seniors that learn a new instrument I have discovered over the years of playing and from researching are:
It may be true that children have an easier time learning new things such as music but, you're never too old to learn an instrument with the help of a good teacher. As you mature as an adult, you have a better and deeper understanding of music both mentally and emotionally. I have noticed over the last 10 years or so that adults have a better understanding of chord progressions and common song melodies that may be unfamiliar or hard to understand for children. This is a distinct advantage for learning that a youngster lacks. Really the only question to ask yourself is “Can I hold the instrument properly to play it?” Now I’m assuming you can still use your hands to hold a fork and knife or catch a ball if so you're ready to start.
Learning an instrument of your choice takes time, dedication, and practice. This is where being older can be beneficial as more mature students tend to be able to focus better and have greater patience than their younger counterparts.
While the above may not apply to everyone, however the point is that everybody is teachable and everyone can learn, no matter what age. With that in mind though, it does help to have a teacher to get you started off on the right path. A good teacher can demonstrate skills and techniques that videos and books can’t. Just remember your teacher probably has been doing this for many years and has already traveled the same roads you are about to venture down. So, a good teacher knows what problems and errors to look for and how to correct them to make your learning experience fun and exciting for you. So, let’s start learning today and enjoy all the benefits a good music program and teacher can bring.
Good luck on your new instrument, have fun and help me with,
Taking Local Music to The World.
If you’re reading this, you’re likely a parent who’s concerned (and rightly so) about choosing the best instrument for your child. Over the many years of teaching music, I have educated lots of parents on how to choose the proper instrument for their child. I will share some of my tips to choose the best instrument for your child by considering age, physical traits, personality, instrument popularity, interest, and your financial situation.
Let’s start with the question I get asked a lot: What age should we begin lessons? With age comes increased physical strength and height. Both of these should be considered when selecting an instrument with your child. Instruments like the banjo and upright bass are bulky and heavy to hold, requiring strength to hold up and carry. Likewise, the acoustic dreadnought guitar (full size) even though it’s not all that heavy it may be too thick to hold for a small six-year-old. However, some larger framed children of the same age may have no problems. At this point, I would recommend a ¾ size guitar to start with. Your child needs to be able to engage a full range of motion no matter what instrument they choose. Thankfully, almost all instruments come in various sizes, such that your child can start learning early. However, this means that you’ll have to invest in properly fitted instruments as your child grows as one instrument simply won’t be adequate for the entire music education.
While some children around four to six years of age have a good attention span others may not acquire this desired attention span to learn an instrument until around the age of ten or so. I personally take students around the age of five and have little trouble teaching them with a properly fitted instrument and patience.
This may be less apparent, but it’s also important to consider your child’s personality when choosing an instrument. Each child will have different experiences learning and performing different instruments due to temperament. Extroverted children who love to be the center of attention may be more suited to start on a popular instrument like the electric guitar or banjo. Players of these instruments not only are commonly part of musical groups but also get featured or soloed very prominently in most music. On the other hand, an introverted child that is reserved and thoughtful may be more comfortable with an instrument like the electric bass, which is more commonly performed without drawing much attention to the individual performance.
Perhaps most importantly, your child must at least be remotely interested in the instrument. While it’s normal for young children to gain and lose interest in things quickly, it’s essential that your child is enthusiastic about learning the instrument at the beginning. I recommend letting the child have some hands-on sessions at your local music store or with a music teacher. If your child can appreciate the sounds of the instrument, he or she will be more likely to enjoy learning the instrument. While your child may be indifferent to several instruments, it’s quite likely that you can be certain if your child prefers a rhythm or lead instrument when making your choice.
Once you and your child have a pretty good idea of what instrument he or she wants to learn, it would be smart to plan for the costs of your child’s music education. As it takes years to develop good skills on an instrument, you must be prepared to make a long-term investment for your child. Instruments often need maintenance and repairs and this is a huge problem with music teachers. We often see a child suffer due to the parents failing to keep an instrument in good playing condition. Strings will have to be replaced and newer equipment will have to be purchased in time. The better the instrument is maintained the easier it is for the child to learn and play.
Finding the right instrument for your child is essential. Remember to ensure that your child’s instrument is of a suitable size, decent quality, and very playable! This will go a long way toward boosting your child’s effective learning and enjoyment in his or her music education. Also, one last thought--commitment to daily practice is just as important if not more than everything else I have recommended.
Taking Local Music to The World
The truth about tuning the right way
Tuning is the process of adjusting the pitch of one or many tones (strings) from musical instruments to establish typical intervals between these tones. Tuning is usually based on a fixed reference, such as 440 Hz or better known as standard universal pitch. The term "out of tune" refers to a pitch/tone that is either too high or too low in relative to a given reference pitch. While an instrument might be in tune to its own range of notes, it may not be considered “in tune” if it does not match the chosen pitch, usually 440Hz. As a music educator for more than 40 years the battle has always been and still remains to get not only my new students but seasoned musicians to understand the importance of a well-tuned instrument.
I don't know if the problem is based on a lack of training or just being lazy. The most important thing we can do as musicians is to learn to adjust and tune our instruments correctly. This is the first step in producing a desired and pleasurable sound on the instrument of choice. Here are a few things to remember while you’re preparing your weapon of choice to play.
Taking Local Music To The World.
Nearly everyone enjoys music, whether by listening to it, singing, or playing an instrument. Despite this almost universal interest, many school systems either cut their music education programs completely or downsize them. Slashing budgets with the goal of improving academic performance has eliminated music education from our local schools. While some believe music isn’t as important as the core academic subjects, my experience shows the benefits of music education including the support of students’ overall academic success.
It would take way too long to write the entire relationship between mathematics and music because essentially they are the same thing. Math is patterns in numbers. Music is patterns in sound. Rhythm is a pattern, melody is a pattern, scales are patterns. It’s common knowledge that music has long been played for performance and pleasure, yet the study of music, particularly its relation to mathematics, has been established for some time. A 2017 University of Montreal study in shows that children enrolled in a music lesson program retain information better than those who learn the same concepts by verbal instruction because of the multi-sensory stimulation that learning music provides. Increases in memory and sensory reaction times were also observed.
Music is both an art and a science, so music and science are closely related also. In 2012 University of California, Berkeley Computer Science professor wrote a research paper Daniel S. Wilkerson explaining harmony with physics and math. They all utilize mathematical principles and logic, blended with creative thinking and inspiration. This is a clear indication that music is as complex and varied as any scientific principle or theory. Just as mathematics is both a science and an art, music is both an art and a science. In this way, the science of music and the art of mathematics are very much related. When describing music we commonly use numbers and math to describe and teach music as fractions of time to indicate lengths of notes, grouping chords together in keys, and the time signature tells the musician information about the rhythm of the piece.
The past 43 years I have devoted my life to teaching and preserving music for our youth. The question I get asked from parents the most is, does studying music boost students’ overall test scores and grades? My answer is most definitely yes. The benefits of studying music and getting higher grades are proven and undisputed in my work with over 3500 students. I have discovered that a continuous study of music and a weekly music lesson program helps achieve and maintain school performances at a higher level over time. This also applies to my older middle age to senior citizen students also. Students of all ages have proven over the years to improve and maintain better muscle memory, hand-eye coordination, and finger dexterity than before they started learning a new instrument.
So yes, music education is a critical part of our children’s lives that we shouldn’t take for granted. It is a valuable tool in continuing education and in the lives of our aging population. We as parents have a responsibility to our children to see that they can become exposed to the wonderful world of music and all its benefits.
Taking Local Music to The World.