As a music teacher, I’m often asked about reading music. Some parents want to know,”Will my child learn to read music?” These are usually parents who have had musical training and see the benefits of being able to read music from the last 1000 years of music literature!
Music notation is an incredible invention. It is so concise, brief and elegant in it’s description of what would have been a lost experience. But that’s the problem. It’s so concise and symbolic, you need years of training, practice and conceptual development to simply read music. It’s well worth the effort though. Learning to read music unlocks the doors to vaults and vaults of incredible music by the masters from Bach to Mozart to Beethoven to Stravinsky to Bernstein to Miles, Bird and Lin-Manuel Miranda, to name just a few.
But My Favorite Rock Star Can’t Read Music
Others want to know if they “have to learn to read music.” This is usually from parents who struggled with reading music and really did not enjoy the process.
I can see both points of view. While yes, there is a great value in learning to read music, many of the greatest musicians cannot read standard music notation. Paul McCartney is just one example. And no one would ever claim Sir Paul is not a “real musician” or songwriter.
The Old School Traditional Way
Traditional music teachers often start with reading music. They want to do this because it is teacher-centric. It’s easier for teachers as there’s so much music written with traditional notation.
Music notation is over 1000 years old!
Ye Olde Songs…yawn
So, often, this old school, easy way for teachers, is also focused on older music. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But, if you want to connect with younger students, you need to find a common ground. You need to connect them with their music. No, you can’t start immediately on the latest songs on the radio. But you can accelerate the learning to get to that goal much quicker.
Accelerate Learning Techniques for Music
At Park Slope Music Lessons, we feel that to present the written music first is backwards. It’s like teaching grammar rules before even learning to say hello!
Our curriculum, the Musicolor Method®, works by giving students an experience of playing first, while building up technique and then gradually presenting the language of music through games and activities. It’s much more entertaining and twice as effective!
By empowering children of all ages to immediately start playing, there’s a huge boost of confidence. Emotion is part of all learning. How do you feel if you don’t get it? Dumb? Confused? Frustrated? But what if you could learn to play a simple song within the first five minutes of your first lesson?
Take a look at our videos, and the rest of our site. You will see we have helped so many kids here in Brooklyn and now around the world learn to make music in a manner more organic, fun and fast.
Life Skills Through Music
And that leads to building life skills transferrable to school, work…everything!
Ifyouasktheaveragemusicteacheraboutspecialneeds children as students,youmaygetablank stare.Thereisn’tmuchliteraturefocusedonthis.Childrenwithspecialneedsmay includethosewithlearningdisabilities,developmentalissues,aswellasthoseonthe Autismspectrum.
Take a look at some of the videos of our past recitals, music salons and read our blog posts. You will see we have helped so many kids learn music in a way that is fun, fast and supportive. It doesn’t matter if your kld is or isn’t a prodigy, we make learning music an organic process. And it all activates life skills that are transferrable to school, work and life!
If you have any questions about your child and their specific issues, feel free to contact us.
I believe music education is vitally important as it teaches one of the most important skills of childhood…confidence.But it’s not the egotistical, brash arrogance posing as confidence that is plaguing our society.
Rather, we parents want our kids to be a clear channel for intuition and spirit developed by learning the laws of the Universe so perfectly exemplified in music.
We are all vibrating, resonating beings.Let’s lift ourselves by resonating with the highest vibrations!
Come join us
This Saturday, June 10, 2017, we will host our Spring concerts at the Park Slope Library on 9th Street and 6th Avenue.
We have an 11am show and a 2pm show in the lower level auditorium. Free and open to the public. Come check out what your kids and neighbors have been working on for the last few months.
We have a diverse and eclectic music program including everything from Bach to Beethoven, Folk Songs to Lady Gaga, classic rock to the blues, original compositions and songs and, of course, music from Disney’s Moana.
Wow, what a great set of concerts we had on Saturday!
It’s truly amazing to see what our kids can accomplish with some directed focus, guidance and perseverance.
These skills translate into wonderful life success skills and you may already notice them surfacing in areas like school, sports and homework.
But, I think this photo truly captures the spirit and essence of what our recitals at Park Slope Music Lessons are all about. Can you guess what it is? Elias with his Dad perform Heart and Soul with a surprise support guest little brother Gabriel.
Look at all that joy! And how fun is it that Gabriel was so moved that he had to join them on stage! After all, what good is music (and life) without joy?
Music is fun.
Music is social.
Music is therapeutic.
Music is all of these and more!
I’m so proud of all our students. Please tell your children how much you appreciate all the courage and hard work that happened this week.
(And continues every week in the lessons and practicing.)
As parents, we want the best for our children and we are usually anxious about getting it right.Here in Park Slope, we all know the competition for preschool, day care and elementary schools begins at birth!
You can usually get a sense of your child’s interest in music by around the age of 2 or 3.They will be singing along with songs in the car or asking you to play a certain song over and over again. And at some point, they may even ask you,
“Can I learn to play ____?(guitar, piano, flute or whatever).
So when should we start getting our kids into a private music lesson?
As a private music teacher and parent, I recommend the following.
Try out a mommy-and-me type class first.
My son enjoyed the Music Together classes on the corner of 1st street and 6th avenue though he was usually more interested in putting away the instruments than actually participating!We also had a lovely time with Juguemos A Cantar, a Spanish language program that includes lots of music and playtime.
There are so many sing-along programs available where general exposure to music,singing and dancing take place in a group environment.This is great for toddlers from 6 months to around 3 years old.
Listen To Music In The Home
This seems rather common sense, but you can definitely expose your child to some great stuff. Be sure to try and include a variety of music. Also, be aware that certain music and lyrics may not be age-appropriate the same way you do with movies and television. Folk and classical music are good choices for toddlers.
Take Your Children to See Live Music
Seeing and hearing live instruments is an amazingly different experience than just listening to recordings. And, because so much of our listening experience is now mediated through compressed audio via streaming services, we really miss out on the true experience of sound. All the major music institutions in our fine city have programs for children. PS 321 has long been hosting a wonderful series of concerts for children organized by Simone Dinnerstein, a world renown classical pianist. Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, BAM and don’t forget the fine performances of students at Juilliard, NYU, Mannes and Manhattan School of Music. We have no excuse!
Fine Motor Skills
By around the age of 3 1/2 or 4 years, most children have developed fine motor skills to the point where they can write their name legibly.They may be able to spell it forwards and backwards.They usually can say the alphabet in proper sequence.And, they usually start to develop the ability to focus on one activity for a longer period of time, say 5 to 10 minutes.At this point, we can start to work with a child on piano /keyboard.
Why start with piano/keyboard?
The piano is a very visually and logically designed interface. It doesn’t require a lot of technical exertion to produce a pleasing sound.Modern digital keyboards can fit into any sized apartment and have volume controls as well as headphone outputs! (We have some recommendations here.)
By starting with the piano/keyboard, we can also visually explain abstract concepts of music like pitch being high or low, and the relationship between the pitches as spatial relationships between the fingers and keys.Using a well-design curriculum like the Musicolor Method, we can coax our young preschoolers to producing quite complex and beautiful music in a relatively short period of time.
Why not violin?
Violin, though often touted as a great beginning instrument, has the challenge of no fixed pitch.It requires tuning and the ability to play in tune – intonation.This can drive lots of people crazy hearing a squeaking, out of tune Twinkle Twinkle over and over again.Piano, or digital keyboard, has the advantage of fixed tuning.An acoustic piano is tuned by a professional once every 6 to 12 months and that’s it.Parents don’t have to fiddle with the tuners.
Growth mindset and brain development
By starting your child in music lessons at the age of 3 or 4, you are helping them with so many life skills.There have been so many studies about the positive effects of music on brain development in young children.And now, further studies are showing the positive effects of participation in formal private music lessons.These studies are showing that music, above all other activities, fosters the very skills that are needed for success in life.These skills include focus, persistence, discipline, public performance, practice skills, study skills, problem solving as well as the ability to listen, harmonize and blend with others.
A Focus on Life Skills
It is with this life skills focus that I established Park Slope Music Lessons. I had studied to be a music teacher at NYU on a special scholarship back in the 1980’s.However, I was soon pulled into many other adventures of life including becoming a writer, producer and VJ for MTV, back when they still played music.Teaching music as a full-time focus didn’t happen until my own son began asking for music lessons.It was then that I started to search for a teacher.I was surprised that almost no one would accept a 3 or 4 year old student.
They all said “Come back when he was 7 or 8.”
A Homeschool Project Expands
That’s when I started my own homeschooling project that blossomed into both a new curriculum and music school. Today we have 3 teachers, including myself, two of whom will actually come to your home for lessons.
I hope to work with you and your child one day soon.
A super Spring Music Recital is headed your way. We’ll have 26 of my students performing uplifting music from Beethoven to Katy Perry to Andrew Lloyd-Weber to the Beatles to music from Hamilton and beyond!
Saturday June 18
Open to the public
Park Slope Library
6th Avenue at 9th Street
Lower level auditorium – there is wheelchair ramp and elevator
I’m looking forward to our upcoming Spring Music Recital on June 7 at 2pm. It will be in our usual location, the auditorium of the Park Slope branch of the Brooklyn Public Library.
We have a great program of diverse music from folk classics to Suzuki standards to pop songs from Katy Perry, Imagine Dragons, One Republic, jazz standards in the style of Frank Sinatra and film and Broadway soundtracks all played by kids ages 5 to 13.
The show is free and open to the public. You can see previous recital videos here.
Also, if you haven’t already signed up your child for summer lessons, I have some openings for our short summer session which runs 4 weeks in July from the 7th to 31st. More info.
I’m also offering music lessons via internet (Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts) over the summer and into the Fall too. This may be a good opportunity to continue practicing whilst at Grandma’s house.
This is very popular with my guitar students. It’s funny, I have recently acquired a bunch of young girl rockers who have switched or added guitar to their musical instrument repertoire and this is one of those songs that resonates with everyone.
It seems the new style of songwriting is to use the same harmonic structure, meaning the chords, over and over again. The only difference between the verses and choruses are in melody, rhythm or the buildup in the production.
I use stick notation with all my students and it really helps them understand rhythms separate from pitch. Here’s a good overview of how I present rhythm using stick notation.
Enjoy the hand drawn sheet music! Notice the CAPO is on the 3rd fret if you want to stay in the same key as the original recording.
Here’s a video of Melina performing at our Winter Recital on January 25, 2014.
All parents want the best for their child and after-school is an opportunity for extra enrichment beyond the classroom.
Yesterday, The Atlantic published an article, After-School Activities Make Educational Inequality Even Worse. The author, Hilary Levey Friedman, interviewed and followed 95 middle-class families over 16 months who were involved in soccer, dance and competitive chess. She identifies 5 skills she believes separates middle/upper class children from less fortunate children and which she calls Competitive Kid Capital. There’s some overlap here with Angela Lee Duckworth’s concept of Grit which I discussed previously. Though Friedman didn’t profile music students, these all overlay very well with music instruction and recitals.
1 – The Importance of Winning – In music there is not necessarily winning and losing, but if you didn’t get the right notes, or you didn’t perform as well as you did at home, then, there’s a sense of a loss. All of my students are pretty hard graders on themselves when asked, “How did you do on that piece?”
2 – Learning from Loss – this is resiliency and happens everyday you practice at your instrument. You’re going to make mistakes, but what matters is what you do next.
3 – Time Management – Music is a time based language- you need to keep the beat – events happen over time. Having good rhythm and timing to correctly and effective communicate a beautiful piece of music is one aspect but so is the management of practice time over weeks and months for a big recital. Will you be prepared? This is life!
4- Adaptability – you need to go with the flow – some days you’ll feel different and you’ll play the music different because of that. But also making small corrections everyday on technical issues is a way of adapting.
5 – Grace Under Pressure – performing in front of a roomful of strangers can be a very intimidating experience. The more you do it, the easier it gets. I’ve seen some of my students blossom over the years and these skills will be useful in the classroom, the job, the board room, anywhere. I wrote this article Why Music Recitals Are Like Life Skills 101 a few years ago.
A new study reports that older adults who took lessons at a young age can process the sounds of speech faster than those who did not.
“It didn’t matter what instrument you played, it just mattered that you played,” said Nina Kraus, a neuroscientist at Northwestern University and an author of the study, which appears in The Journal of Neuroscience.
What’s incredible is that this is 30-40 years later! And these people may never have continued on an instrument after their childhood music lessons.
If you are interested in piano, guitar, strumstick, ukelele, voice, songwriting and music theory lessons this summer, there are still slots available. The summer lesson schedule runs 6 weeks from July 9 through August 16 Monday through Thursdays. There are morning and afternoon sessions. Lessons are $60 each or $330 for the full 6 weeks.
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!
We’ve been doing some great explorations of the roots of rock and roll which began with the basic form of the 12 bar blues. These 12 measures are like a pattern, a recipe that hundreds if not thousands or hundreds of thousands of songs have been based. Once you know the “recipe” you can cook up your own or play all of the variations. Here’s a few of them.
You can view these video clips and read along in the music notation I gave you.