The Everlasting Positive Effects of Music Lessons

It seems every year there’s a new study that confirms the positive benefits of music lessons in early childhood.  This one has some great findings:

From the NY Times Well Blog:

By PERRI KLASS, M.D.

Joyce Hesselberth

When children learn to play a musical instrument, they strengthen a range of auditory skills. Recent studies suggest that these benefits extend all through life, at least for those who continue to be engaged with music.

But a study published last month is the first to show that music lessons in childhood may lead to changes in the brain that persist years after the lessons stop.

Researchers at Northwestern University recorded the auditory brainstem responses of college students — that is to say, their electrical brain waves — in response to complex sounds. The group of students who reported musical training in childhood had more robust responses — their brains were better able to pick out essential elements, like pitch, in the complex sounds when they were tested. And this was true even if the lessons had ended years ago.

Indeed, scientists are puzzling out the connections between musical training in childhood and language-based learning — for instance, reading. Learning to play an instrument may confer some unexpected benefits, recent studies suggest.

We aren’t talking here about the “Mozart effect,” the claim that listening to classical music can improve people’s performance on tests. Instead, these are studies of the effects of active engagement and discipline.

What Music Should My Child Be Listening To?

A Playlist for Young Music Students – or anyone who appreciates a wide eclectic listening palette.

I hope you are having a super summer and getting some much needed recharging.
As you know, listening to quality music is one of the most important parts of being a music student. Hearing comes before sight as well as our ability to talk.  Music is a language and the more your child listens to a wide variety of quality music, the wider your child’s view of the world. With that in mind, I wanted to let you know of an amazing resource called Spotify.  If you didn’t already know, this a free software app/website that allows you to listen to about 90% of all recorded music for free – http://www.spotify.com.  It’s like an internet radio station/library.

This is an amazing resource for teachers, students and fans.  There are a few commercials, but you can pay for a premium version without commercials – which is how the musicians and composers get paid by the way.  The best part of Spotify is the social aspect in that you can easily share songs and playlists with friends…and my students!

I’ve made an Essential Listening Playlist for my students.
It covers folk, jazz, blues, rock, bluegrass, country, film soundtracks, Colombian rock including one vallenato and some classical.  It’s quite eclectic, and is chosen for quality of music, composition, styles and appropriate lyric content.  You will never hear this on commercial radio – no Justin Beiber here!  Once you subscribe to this list, you’ll receive updates as I add them,

Play Piano For Kids, Volume 1 iPad interactive book app is now available

An interactive iPad book for young children with their parents, caregivers
Available now at the Apple App store

As many of you know, I’ve been working hard on an interactive iPad iBook for quite some time.  Today Play Piano For Kids, Volume 1 (Penguins Don’t Play Piano, But You Can!) is officially live in 32 countries around the world in the Apple iTunes Bookstore.  It’s on sale for the next week for only 99 cents after which it will go up to $6.99.  Pleases go and take a look and give a review/rating.

Aimed at parents , home-schoolers and teachers of young children aged 3 to 6 years old, the book is really an app which delivers a learning system including audio, video, animations and my unique color system.  It spans the first month and a half of lessons that in my private lessons would cost over $200!   There is no experience required and no need to read traditional music notation.  In fact, the problem with most music books and teachers try to present too much information at once.  By breaking down the learning process into micro steps, I’ve helped hundreds of kids learn to play piano, (and guitar) whilst having proper technique, and learning music theory, traditional notation and even composition.

For those of you who have been unable to get on my roster, this is a great way to virtually start lessons with me.  There’s even a free sample that gives you the first lesson for free.  And this is just the beginning, I’m already working hard on the next volume as well as a support website PlayPianoForKids.com

Feel free to comment!

Winter Recital 2012 Success!

It was a great recital last Saturday at the Carroll Gardens Library in Brooklyn.  With 30 students performing and a house of over 100 guests, we had a lovely time and everyone did their best.  Thanks again to all the parents, grandparents, friends and family who came to show their support, love and appreciation of our young performers!  And special thanks to Jeff Schwartz and the entire staff of the Carroll Gardens library who graciously let us use their space and even set up the chairs for us!

 

Here’s some photo highlights.  Videos are posted here.

Students warm up before the music recital
Students warm up before the music recital
Music Students of Park Slope Music Lessons
Lining up to receive award certificates
Giving out awards
Everyone comes onstage
Students at Winter Recital 2012
Winter Recital 2012
Strumstick student Felix
4 year old Felix on Strumstick
Evan & Sienna perform What A Wonderful World
Evan & Sienna perform What A Wonderful World
Ryan performs Katy Perry's Firework
Ryan performs Katy Perry's Firework
Ava performs Lightly Row
Ava gets prepared to play Lightly Row
Stella & Tellulah perform Adele's Someone Like You
Stella & Tellulah perform Adele's Someone Like You

 

 

A Typical Music Lesson – My Approach to Teaching

4 hands are better than 2!

Apologies for the site being down all of last week.  But we’re back!  Here’s a quick update and enjoy the week off for Thanksgiving!

 

As many of you know, in each of my lessons, my aim is to address 3 main areas: repertoire, reading and music theory.

Repertoire

This is building up a collection of pieces that your child can play from memory and perform in public.
It allows us to work on technique and bring music to life whilst giving a great confidence boost and joy in playing. This material I often present using my own color notation which enables your child to learn a piece as quickly as possible and then memorize it. Many of you are using Suzuki material for this repertoire whilst others are working on a combination of Suzuki with jazz, blues, pop and world music.

Reading

To  learn to read music is truly a great skill. To be musically literate opens a whole door to deeper appreciation. Reading music is not as difficult as it seems, but requires a steady practice diet.   I will usually not start this until we’ve been playing a repertoire of about 7 to 10 songs.  I use a proprietary method of notation to get them up to speed quickly with simple and then complex pieces.

Music Theory

This is the nuts and bolts of music. We get under the hood and see how music is structured and built through games,

Glenn Gould’s Finger Tapping Exercise for Piano Technique

Many of you are struggling with playing cleanly and smoothly. This simple technique can help you to relax your fingers to pay more fluidly. Developed by Glenn Gould’s mentor and longtime teacher Chilean pianist Alberto Guerrero, it aims to retain a relaxed muscle memory. You can learn more about this in the wonderful documentary Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould.

John Lennon’s Imagine

This is from a concert at Madison Square Garden in 1972.  Essential listening for anyone!

Imagine there’s no Heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world
You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

I’m starting a songwriting class in September and we’ll be analyzing some of the greatest rock, pop, jazz songs of all time as part of the curriculum.  Stay tuned or get on my waiting list on the registration page.

Buy this song at Amazon

Using Colors to Learn Music

One of the core concepts of my approach to teaching music to young children is the use of colors to represent pitches.  I’ve used this with great success on both piano, guitar and in reading music notation.

Those of you studying with me have already seen my piano covered with translucent tape and my guitar with colored stars up the fretboard.

Here’s a link to that highlighter tape that I use.  Thanks to my son’s first grade teacher Melissa for the great tip.

This pack will last you a long long time.

10 Tips For Parents To Help Their Children Learn Music

Many parents have expressed their frustration at getting their child to practice their musical instrument.  Here’s some tips to help.

  1. Re-frame the notion of practice from chore to a fun activity or even a reward.  Don’t force them to practice, it will only drive them away from it.
  2. Place the piano in a central part of the home.  If a guitar, put it on a stand in the living room, or even hang it on the wall like in the guitar stores.  All instruments have some kind of stand you can buy.  By having it out and in easy reach, the instrument naturally gets picked up at various times of the day.   If the instrument is in a far off corner of the house, it feels like a banishment or punishment.
  3. Make a consistent time of music time everyday.  Some people have found 5 minutes in the morning before school is a great thing.  Others find right after school or just before bed.  By having a regular schedule, it becomes a habit and that makes it easier to have consistent and frequent time at the instrument.
  4. Take interest in your child’s playing (even if it’s awful).  By giving attention, the child feels rewarded and they will get better – really, I promise!
  5. Ask them to teach you the lesson (even if you already know it.)  By teaching, the child has to be able to organize their thoughts and really know how to communicate the knowledge.  They learn by teaching.  This may work better with one parent than the other when one is a musician and the other not.