The Math Behind an Octave

There are so many things that are easy to take for granted as musicians. We are standing on the shoulders, as it were, of many who have gone before us, making observations and discoveries that have been instrumental (:-)) in the progress and development of music as we understand it today. Even this tidbit that Paulo Goncalves, of Do Re Mi Studios in Jannali, Australia, recently wrote regarding the relationship of math and music is fascinating!

Pythagoras, the Greek mathematician, discovered that notes that sound good together (i.e. are in harmony) are mathematically related. He also found that the sound of a note plucked on a string depends on its length and tension. In his experiments, he discovered that by halving the length of a string and plucking it again, you produce a sound that it is almost the same. However, this sound is higher in pitch. The interval between the original note and the note produced by halving the string is referred to as an octave. Mathematically, an octave is the distance between any given note with a set frequency, and another note with double that frequency. In music, both these notes have the same name but are written an octave apart on the staff.

Next semester, as part of our Classical Conversations homeschool program, we’re planning to go through a book called, Math in Motion: First Steps in Music Theory, so I’m excited to see what other interesting things we discover that go even beyond basic theory to a deeper understanding of the science and math of sound!

An Inspiring Calling

Kristin Jensen, of the wonderful My Fun Piano Studio website, asked me to write a guest post for her blog. Here’s an excerpt of my post, An Inspiring Calling:

What if you could do one thing that would motivate students, energize your teaching, elicit gratitude from parents, and increase the value of your studio offerings? I know it sounds too good to be true, but after seventeen years…

>>>Read the rest of the post here>>>

3 Tips for Getting Millennials Interested in Music Learning – A Guest Post by Alternate Tone Music School

Millennials were born into a world full of electronics and gadgets. They have no memory of a world without the Internet, smartphones, and laptops. Many of them have been plugged into an electronic device since they were toddlers. Surrounded by an overwhelming amount of stimuli, millenials often have a very short attention span.

The generational divide between many music instructors and the millenial generation can pose considerable challenges. Millennials are frequently described as privileged, always looking for fun in work, and valuing friends and lifestyle. Many of them also place an emphasis on collaborative learning experiences like shared work assignments. As instructors, we need to be able to adapt to their learning style and needs in order to stimulate their interest in music learning.

1. Using Technology to Enhance Interest

Since Millennials are avid users of gadgets, it is important to integrate technology as a learning tool. This provides a perception of “playing a game” instead of a mundane learning class.

At Alternate Tone Music School we use the latest musical technology for classes and conduct musical workshop that provide music exposure to kids of all ages. One example is our featured innovative kit. This kit allows students to expand their world of imagination, creativity, and invention.

The innovative kit transforms every day objects into touchpads and combines them with the internet. For example, we plug fruits and vegetables into the device and convert them into piano keys where each piece of fruit or vegetable represents a specific key on the piano. For a fun challenge, you can even try to use items that begin with the same letter as the key name, like this:

C – Carrot
D – Dragon Fruit
E – Elderberry

At the end of the day, not only will they recognize the different key sounds, but they will also remember the layout of the piano keys.

2. Develop Collaborative Courses or Workshops

Millennials enjoy working in groups, so at Alternate Tone Music School most of our programs encourage group learning.

While individual lessons allow the instruction to be tailored to the student’s learning style and goals, group classes can be more fun and interactive, spurring a student’s interest for music or reigniting their passion for learning. Collaborative learning sessions are a great way for students to meet other like-minded musicians.

At Alternate Tone Music School, we provide jamming sessions with our students in addition to their regular classes. This helps build their confidence as they perform and play with their peers. Occasionally, we also have special music-related workshops like song composition skills to broaden their knowledge about music and how they can explore it further.

3. Promote creativity

Our school systems are said to be killing creativity in our children. Kids are often punished for making mistakes and are discouraged from thinking or acting differently. They are taught how to follow instructions and replicate what their teachers do. However, these practices do little to encourage creativity. Children who are restricted to such frameworks are less capable of coming up with new solutions and engaging in self-expression.

Alternate Tone’s core belief is that it is the responsibility of us instructors to help promote creativity in our students. Using another fun innovative music-making kit, students explore their creativity by using everyday objects such as toilet paper rolls, paper, sticks, cardboard, water etc. to build a structure that makes music.

Here are some examples of our students’ musical creations:

In the words of Frank Fitzpatrick from the Huffington Post, “Imagination is the wellspring of creativity, for it is our audacity to imagine that pushes the boundaries of possibility.”

A successful music instructor has experience and knowledge, is adaptable, and is a source of inspiration for his students.


Alternate Tone Music School is the latest advertiser here at Music Matters Blog. They specialize in providing piano lessons and guitar lessons in Singapore. Contact them for workshop and teaching opportunities. We are grateful for their support of the online music education community! If you are interested in finding out more about how you can promote your company, event, or product, just send us an e-mail and we will let you know about our advertising packages.

Learn From Your Musical Heroes – A Guest Post by Andy Trowers

The best musicians are truly inspiring. They evoke strong feelings through their playing. One of my favourite things is to listen to artists I admire and try to emulate the way they play or compose. You can learn so much from the way they express themselves in note placement, note selection, rhythmic patterns, and technique.

It seems like an obvious thing to say, but many musicians neglect the listening side of music. Analysing a composition, whatever genre, is a key part of improving as a musician. It inspires ideas and enhances your ear, which is essential for improvisation. It’s even a great idea to listen to musical forms you don’t particularly like. You can often listen to them more objectively and gain unusual ideas that can be incorporated into the style you play in an innovative way.

Here are five of my favourite musicians and composers and what I learned from them.

Keith Richards

KeithRichards‘Keef’ Richards was the first musician I truly idolised. His guitar playing is understated and has one sole purpose – to deliver a great song. He is perhaps not the most technical of guitarists when it comes to solos but he is the undisputed master of catchy riffs. He taught me the importance of ‘weaving’ or blending in with other musicians as you play. Playing in the space other musicians leave is essential in a band situation and he epitomises this approach. His passion for blues also turned me on to some great old blues masters who have greatly influenced the way I play.

Stevie Wonder

StevieWonderStevie Wonder was born into music. A child prodigy, he signed to Tamla Motown at the age of 11 years old. He became blind at birth but didn’t let that stop him from becoming one of the most influential musicians of all time. His 1973 album Inner Visions is an acknowledged classic and he played most of the instruments you hear on the album. Whenever I listen to it, I am struck by its outrageous funkiness. His rhythmic playing is second to none, yet he also manages to incorporate beautiful melodies. This fusion of funk and catchy song writing is something that has inspired my own efforts at composition over the years.

Bob Dylan

BobDylanWith his gravelly voice and unkempt appearance, Bob Dylan is an unlikely pop star. He is a prolific songwriter, though, having written many famous hits performed by many different people. He recently won the Nobel Prize for Literature for song-writing.  His poetic lyrics have been a great influence on many songwriters over the years. His early work is based primarily on the acoustic guitar and I learned fingerpicking technique from it, essential for folk and blues playing.

Nina Simone

NinaSimoneThis classically trained pianist-turned-jazz-singer fought against prejudice to become an internationally acclaimed artist and songwriter. Her haunting voice and assured compositions defy description, yet are recognizable the world over. The way she fused classical music with jazz and soul to create a unique sound should be an inspiration to those looking for innovative directions in music.

 

Mozart

WolfgangMozartAnother child prodigy, Mozart was composing and performing in front of royalty by the age of five. He was a master of the classical art-form composing concertos, symphonies, operas, sonatas and string concertos. He created more than 600 works and influenced countless musicians throughout the generations. For me, his final unfinished requiem is a masterpiece. Though there is controversy over how much of the final piece is his, it is a striking example of dynamics in music. The ebb and flow of the music show how powerful near-silence and changes in volume and tempo can be in a piece.


Andy Trowers is a freelance writer and regular contributor to www.cheap.forsale and is the latest advertiser here at Music Matters Blog. We are grateful for his support of the online music education community! If you are interested in finding out more about how you can promote your company, event, or product, just send us an e-mail and we will let you know about our advertising packages.

The Importance of Being Creative – A Guest Post by Andy Trowers

Creativity is one of the most important life skills a child can develop. Beyond musical or artistic benefits, creativity brings many advantages later in life. It improves problem-solving at work, allows greater expression, reduces stress, and helps makes connections with like-minded people. This post explores the benefits of creativity and how it can be nurtured, especially in children.

Creative1

There is a reason that coming up with answers is often referred to as “creative problem-solving.” It’s because creativity plays such an important part in coming up with solutions to the obstacles of everyday life. Whether at work or in general life, we are presented with issues that require a combination of creativity and knowledge to find the best path. Being creative helps people adapt to new situations more easily and can greatly improve career prospects.

Creativity is also a form of expression. Art, music and other creative forms let us explore feelings in a way that we feel comfortable with. Young people can gain a greater knowledge of themselves and the person they want to be by exploring emotions safely through art and music.

Creative2

It is well known that creative expression reduces stress and anxiety. It is often used as a form of therapy for sufferers of depression, as the very act of playing music or creating art can put you in a meditative state. In this state, studies have shown that positive emotions are increased while negative ones tend to withdraw. This is why art and creation go a long way to increase the happiness of a child.

Though some art-forms can be solo affairs, many also help connect people in a very real way. From joint art classes to playing in a band, or simply going to appreciate art, music, or photography, creative endeavours have a way of bringing people together. They are talking points and help human beings relate to each other and realise that we have shared experiences, no matter what colour or creed we are.

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Creativity also helps children learn. Throughout any kind of creative process, questions crop up time and time again. It makes the child think in ways and about things they wouldn’t normally do. It is brilliant for expanding a child’s knowledge and understanding of the world around them.

So how do you improve creativity? Here are my three top tips for helping children (and big kids) get their creative juices flowing.

1: Use it over and over again

Creativity is like a muscle – the more you use it, the better it works. With children, try many different creative mediums – painting, music, sculpture, drawing, or whatever art-forms are available. Each one has its own unique set of challenges and discipline that will help a child grow and develop.

2: Encourage a sense of freedom.

Let them explore new things with no sense that they might be doing it wrong. We learn at least as much from our mistakes as the things that end up going perfectly, especially at a young age.

3: Don’t force it

Ensure that each creative session is fun and not enforced. Nothing kills creativity quicker than the sense that you have to do something you don’t want to do. Children should look forward to it each time, not be told they have to do it.


Andy Trowers is a freelance writer and regular contributor to www.australia.for-sale.com and is the latest advertiser here at Music Matters Blog. We are grateful for his support of the online music education community! If you are interested in finding out more about how you can promote your company, event, or product, just send us an e-mail and we will let you know about our advertising packages.

Teaching Music Cambodian Style – A Guest Post by Andy Trowers

Cambodia1

Music has always been my passion, whether listening, playing or teaching. I’ve been inspired by a great many musicians and always want to help others explore their musical side too; especially those with limited access to music. So when I got the chance to teach music at a Cambodian school, I leapt at it.

Cambodia2

I had visited the beautiful riverside town of Kampot, Cambodia some years previously and quickly fell in love with its relaxed atmosphere and creative spirit. It’s a small place with a lot of character. The famously friendly Cambodian people are at their warmest in this town and there is a sizable expat community, which makes for an incredible cultural melting pot of music, art and food.

So when I finished a work contract back home and felt my itchy traveller feet start to tingle, thoughts turned to Kampot. I contacted a friend from my previous visit and secured a volunteer post at a local school. I was to teach guitar and basic music theory to classes of under-privileged Cambodian kids.

Cambodia3

I arrived at the school excited for my first day. The classrooms were basic and a little shabby around the edges, floors covered with the pervasive red dust of Cambodian dry season. A gaggle of kids gathered outside playing.

We entered the sweltering classroom and the children set about sweeping up and opening window shutters to let the breeze through. Then they lined up. Standing in front of me in rows, they intoned in heavily accented English

“Hello teacher, how are you today?”

“I’m doing very well thanks. How are you?” I replied.

“I’m fine thanks you. And you?” they chorused.

Realising that I could easily get caught in a ‘thank you’ loop if I replied again, I nodded sagely and they all sat down.

As we started, I soon realised that I would have to re-evaluate my lofty lesson plans. There were around fifty children in the class and when asked through a translator if any played a musical instrument, none put their hands up. I had brought a guitar with me but with only one instrument in the whole school, it was going to be tricky.

I changed tack and played a song and asked them to clap along in time. It soon became apparent that clapping in time was problematic. As is often the way with kids, they would get excited and speed up, or slow down when they got bored.

I had a metronome app on my phone so I got them to clap in time and learned how to say ‘keep in time’, ‘faster’, and ‘slower’ to try and keep their beat steady. This gets dry quickly, so I varied it by playing games like ‘match the rhythm.’ One child would make up a four beat rhythm and the others would go around the circle matching it. When one person changed the rhythm, the circle would reverse and go back the other way with the new beat.

The classes I had varied in age from 6 year olds to 16 but the things I taught didn’t vary too much between classes. As there is no formalized music tuition, the older kids still needed to learn the basics like staying in time. Out of around 200 children that passed through my classes, only one played an instrument and he was self-taught.

Over time, I got them to make their own shakers and drums out of tin cans and corn kernels, which was great. Well, great for us. Not so much for the neighbouring classrooms. I also taught some basic songs to give the idea of melody. Singing songs in a foreign language is challenging, though, so I tried to learn some Khmer songs to make it more familiar. We touched on harmonies, too, but with hindsight, “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” is not the best song to teach Cambodian kids. The ‘r’ sound is practically unheard of out here so the lyrics were very difficult for them to grasp.

Despite their unfamiliarity with playing music, the children were amazing. They would do whatever I asked of them and they seemed excited to be at school learning. Education is seen as a privilege in Cambodia, and they would show their appreciation at the end of every lesson, lining up to say “Thank you, teacher.” If lessons went particularly well, they would high-five me on the way out.

By the end of my time at the school, they had improved rhythmically and knew something about melody, but it was all still very basic. These were children of rural folk and their parents wanted them to work on the farms in their spare time, not learn music. The biggest change was probably in me. I ended up staying in Cambodia and setting up a charity that buys instruments and teaching materials which get donated to local schools. I want to help improve access to music in this country which is full of music lovers but short on opportunities.


Andy Trowers is a freelance writer and regular contributor to www.for-sale.ie and is the latest advertiser here at Music Matters Blog. We are grateful for his support of the online music education community! If you are interested in finding out more about how you can promote your company, event, or product, just send us an e-mail and we will let you know about our advertising packages.

History of American Music Education – A Guest Post by Campbellsville University

In most public schools across the country, music education is an important part of the educational experience. The history of music education in the United States began before the American Revolution and progressed to the prevalence of music education today.

Music Education in the Colonies

When the Pilgrims and Puritans arrived in Massachusetts, they brought a tradition of singing psalms. According to A Concise History of American Music Education by Michael Mark, the first book printed in America that contained music was a 1698 psalm book.

Meanwhile, secular music was allowed and celebrated in the South. Experienced musicians traveled across plantations to teach children and perform for private audiences and churches. Music education was limited to the wealthy.

As the northern colonies grew, so did the importance of music literacy in the church. The Rev. John Tufts founded the first American “singing school” and published An Introduction to The Singing of Psalm-Tunes in 1721 to cure the ills of music illiteracy. Singing masters taught people in the community to sing by note as part of the singing school movement.

>>Read more about the History of Music Education>>


Campbellsville University Online is our newest advertiser here on Music Matters Blog, and we are grateful for their support of the online music education community! Find out more about their Master of Music in Education program. If you are interested in finding out more about how you can promote your company, event, or product, just send us an e-mail and we will let you know about our advertising packages.

Why Apps Motivate Students – A Guest Post by flowkey

“How can I motivate my students to practice piano at home?” This is a question parents and piano teachers have long reckoned with. Today, this challenge is even greater thanks to technological developments. Let’s face it – smartphones, tablets, and computer games are more exciting than the average practice book. But distracting devices needn’t be your enemy.

On the contrary, new digital tools can liven up your students’ practice routines in new and exciting ways. After all, electronic devices have revolutionized just about every aspect of our lives. We buy plane tickets on our smartphone, boost our fitness with the aid of an app, and carry enormous libraries of films, books, and music in our pocket everywhere we go. Why not explore the benefits of innovative technologies for teaching piano, too?

It’s hard to find a child who isn’t fascinated by smartphones and tablets these days. Having noticed this, some resourceful piano teachers have already begun to make use of this enthusiasm for technology. The simple inclusion of a tablet PC in piano lessons lends an inexplicable “coolness factor” that makes learning a little more thrilling. Ear training and other music theory exercises become fun games to play on the go in the form of an app.

If you’re keen to give your teaching a technological edge but aren’t sure where to start, check out Christopher Sutton’s great guest post on making the most of online resources. Online communities are a great way to learn from other teachers’ experiences, ask questions, and find inspiration. Research and start experimenting with a range of tools. Soon enough you’ll find the ones that suit your students’ needs.

The kids of today have grown up with a love of digital devices, and a few innovative tools are often enough to make even the most frustrating practice sessions fun again. This goes for older students, too. Most piano students who learn to play piano as an adult often have two things in common: they want to improve fast, and they don’t have much spare time on their hands. The solution? Make practice efficient and fun with the help of an app.

One such app even provides an entirely interactive learning environment. With flowkey students can engage with a friendly and intuitive app that gives them immediate feedback on their progress. Apps like these show that new technology isn’t just a distraction for piano students. Far from it! By making the most of devices, apps, and online resources, students are able to create a practice routine that truly suits them.


flowkey is our newest advertiser here on Music Matters Blog, and we are grateful for their support of the online music education community! If you are interested in finding out more about how you can promote your company, event, or product, just send us an e-mail and we will let you know about our advertising packages.

Appreciating the Old Welcoming the New – A Guest Post by the University of Florida

Those that were born before the iPod may remember the decline of cassette and record players, the latter of which is currently experiencing a resurgence as more people turn to vinyl for a revival of sound quality. This infographic illustrates the evolution of music technology and how it has allowed us to enjoy and create music socially as well as individually.

Items like the 4-track tape machine were used to record and play tracks reel-to-reel. Now people can share audio and video on YouTube, SoundCloud, Spotify, and other streaming platforms. They can even record their own music on affordable programs like GarageBand.

In a rapidly-changing musical world, it can be helpful to treasure the inventions of the past while looking forward to future developments. Check out the infographic below for some inspiration, or use it as a visual when teaching your students about the history of music innovation.


Interested in learning more about applying new methods to music education? Discover the online master’s degree in music education from the University of Florida.

Deciding on a Musical Instrument – What to Choose? – A Guest Post by The Tutor Pages

Most parents will consider these questions at some point: Is my child musical? Can we afford music lessons? Which instrument should we choose?

Many parents are eager for their child to begin music lessons at a young age. However, some instruments are a better choice than others for young beginners. For example, the piano or a string instrument can be learned very young – even 3 year olds can experience success. On the other hand, vocal teachers will often recommend that a child start later, perhaps after puberty. Woodwind and brass teachers normally recommend that a child wait until their adult teeth have come in before learning their instruments.

Every instrument has advantages and disadvantages. Piano lessons are an obvious choice: the child can immediately make a reasonable sound on this instrument and there is a huge repertoire – truly a lifetime of discovery. On the other hand, pianos can be an expensive investment and you may have to worry about disturbing the neighbours. Digital pianos are worth considering for both of these reasons.

Some instruments provide more social interaction. Guitar lessons, for example, give students a great opportunity to play in groups. Beginner guitars are reasonably priced, portable, and are great for singing along and playing with friends in many genres.

Other string instruments like the cello and violin also provide social opportunities – you can join orchestras and other ensembles. They have a vast body of repertoire available, especially in the chamber music realm. The same is true for woodwind instruments like the clarinet and brass instruments like the trumpet. It is worth remembering that some instruments have better crossover for other genres such as jazz: for example, the trumpet or double bass.

Whatever instrument you choose, you can find advice on choosing the right musical instrument, tips on how to learn, and help finding a music teacher on the UK’s premier website for private tuition: The Tutor Pages.


The Tutor Pages is our newest advertiser here on Music Matters Blog, and we are grateful for their support of the online music education community! If you are interested in finding out more about how you can promote your company, event, or product, just send us an e-mail and we will let you know about our advertising packages.