In the latest e-mail from Yellow Cat Studio, Sarah shared her idea for the Consecutive Club, a simple way to keep students (and herself!) accountable for spending time at the piano every day. I really like this idea, and may try to incorporate something similar into my practice incentive theme next year! We did something similar quite a few years ago with The Box Club theme, but I’ve gotten away from an emphasis on/incentive for practicing every day and I think it’s something I need to reinstate. There’s just nothing that can take the place of consistent, daily practice!
My oldest son was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was a toddler, and ever since we’ve tried countless treatments and alternative therapies to help him live as rich a life as possible. Our most recent exploration was into the world of music therapy, and it was astonishing how well he responded to it.
Since the Mozart Effect was made popular in the 1950’s, parents everywhere have begun to expose their children to classical music. It is said to help improve brain performance and even raise a child’s IQ.
As time has passed, all types of music have been accepted as part of music therapy. Music therapy is used to help children in the classroom, at home and even in hospitals, regardless of whether or not they have special needs.
Music Therapy for Children with Disabilities
Music therapy has been shown to improve speech and language deficits and cognitive abilities. It can also help build your child’s social skills and sensory motor functioning – especially in children with Autism.
Music therapists are board certified trainers who have learned to facilitate specific music activities to help your child’s brain develop. Other advocates of music therapy say that it can also provide a huge boost to a child’s self-esteem.
Imagine a happy child smiling and bouncing around as you help them dance to the music created by the therapist. This will also help you foster a healthy non-verbal relationship with your child. So much love and adoration can be expressed as they experience the music around them with you.
My son’s physical limitations prevent him from learning an instrument, but the music therapist comes to play music for him and he loves every second of it. Being able to participate in this is only an added benefit. It’s almost as if the music therapy is for both of us. Seeing his smile is priceless.
Music can also be incorporated into all kinds of activities with your special needs child such as getting dressed, at bedtime, and when they are throwing a tantrum. It can help significantly calm them down and focus on something more positive than whatever is frustrating them.
Music Therapy for All Children
Research shows that music therapy has helped many a student achieve higher test scores in school. Even years later when children are taking the SAT and applying to colleges their test scores are slightly higher than their peers who did not participate in music therapy or education.
Some Charter schools in the United States are allowing children to wear their headphones during the day while they are doing class work because it helps them concentrate better. Music can be used to motivate your child in all kinds of situations – and this is definitely still considered therapy.
Young minds can be heavily shaped by music in many different ways. A large number of children find it easier to fall asleep at night time while listening to soothing music, like Mozart. This also helps their brains process their thoughts from throughout the day and has been shown to reduce nightmares and night terrors.
After seeing the benefits for my son, I would highly suggest anyone who is interested or considering music therapy to try it. The positive benefits to them are truly endless.
[Photo 1 courtesy of speechbuddy.com]
[Photo 2 courtesy of topnews.in]
[Photo 3 courtesy of ealingmusictherapy.org]
Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer and proud mom of three in the Los Angeles area. She specializes in health, tech, and marketing, and currently works with David Anderson Pianos, who first sparked her interest in music therapy.
Christopher Sutton, of Easy Ear Training, has just put together a very helpful guide on How to Learn Intervals. After a brief explanation of intervals (with accompanying sound examples), he identifies three approaches to learning intervals by ear:
- Reference Songs
- The “Nike Method”
Check out his handy guide for specifics on each of these!
I want my students to feel an internal beat; it seems that any kind of external beat (counting, tapping, metronome, etc.) can be ”warped” or ignored while concentrating on note location, etc. But, I’m having trouble with some students who never seem to get it (it doesn’t matter what song it is). When approaching a new song, what do you teach first – note locations or rhythm? And do you have any ideas to move a student from external to internal beat?
This question is very apropos right now because I have a young student struggling with the exact same thing, so I’ve been trying to come up with some ideas to address this issue. In my experience, students who are strong visual learners tend to struggle more in this area because they are very focused on reading the notes on the page and tend to not be as aware of the sound they are making. And I should know because I was one of those students! Thanks to the patience and creativity of my dedicated teacher, though, I think I have developed a pretty good sense of pulse and rhythmic flow. So, some of these ideas that I share will be ones that she used with me. I thought I would use this as an opportunity to do a brainstorm post and just bullet point every idea that comes to mind that could be used to help a student develop a better internal sense of pulse:
- Incorporate elements of Eurhythmics into the lesson. The basic idea is to use large motor movements to express the pulse and the rhythms, whether walking, dancing, swaying, marching in place, etc. (Don’t be afraid to make the student get off the bench and feel a little ridiculous if necessary. Even if they hate it now, it will be worth it!)
- Grab a baton and teach the student basic conducting patterns. I have a whole collection of kids batons and use them often with students to learn conducting patterns. They love it!
- Listen to recordings of upbeat music and tap, clap, or play a rhythm instrument along with it. The Let’s Have a Musical Rhythm Band book and CD set is great for this!
- Give the student a djembe and have them beat a steady pulse while you play or improvise a piece of music. I have this Toca Djembe and use it all the time in my studio – it’s a favorite for both the students and me! I especially like to have them emphasize the downbeat by hitting the drum harder or in a different spot to make it distinct.
- Improvise duets together. Anyone whose been around here long knows I can hardly go a whole week without a reference to improvising! I use the Pattern Play series every day in my teaching, and it’s a great way to free students up from having to read musical notation to just listen and express themselves musically. Very helpful for cultivating more of an awareness of musical pulse and flow.
- Record (audio or video) the student playing their piece, then listen to the playback and tap along with the beat. Have them keep a tally of how many times they hesitated or got off beat.
- Find a book of duets at their level and have them learn one part to play with either you or another student. Ensemble playing does wonders for learning to keep the beat going!
- When learning a piece (to address the other part of your question), have the student improvise whatever notes they want to, but play the rhythm as written. Sometimes to make the point that I really don’t care what notes they play, I’ll have them move onto the black keys and just play everything on random keys, but still keeping the rhythm accurate. The goal is to capture the character and flow of the piece, then later we will work on learning the written notes.
So, there are some of my ideas. I would LOVE to add to this list, though, so if you have other suggestions of how to help a student develop an internal sense of pulse, please let me know!
Remember, if you have a question you’d like to contribute to next week’s Monday Mailbag, leave it in the comments below or send me an e-mail sometime this week with Monday Mailbag in the subject line!
A couple nights ago I presented my workshop, Creativity on the Cutting Edge, to a music teachers association. In so doing, I was reminded of this wonderful statement about the teaching method of Theodor Leschetizky in an article about him in the September/October 2012 issue of American Music Teacher:
“The great quality of Leschetizky was his vitality…there is no Leschetizky method. It is a mere legend – an absolute fallacy. He never spoke, at least I never heard him to speak, of technique. Several of his assistants and some of his pupils have published books on his method which are all diametrically opposed. Don’t be misled by them. There was no method. His teaching was much more than a method. It was a current which sought to release all latent vitality in the student. It was addressed to imagination, taste, and personal responsibility.”
~Artur Schnabel, as cited in Defining the Undefinable: The Leschetizky Method In Vienna and Chicago by Christina L. Reitz
It’s so easy to feel pressure to adopt a system or a method that can be used with every student, but the reality is that every student is different, has different interests, different aptitudes, different ways of learning. What a tremendous privilege we have as independent music teachers to customize our approach to help each student realize their potential and achieve success. As overwhelming as it can seem, it’s also exciting to consider each student as an individual and tailor our teaching approach to their needs – identifying and working through their struggles, and capitalizing on their strengths!
At the MTNA Conference I had the privilege of meeting Bonnie Slaughter, the creator of this ingenious approach to theory. I like to think of it as the text messaging approach to music theory.
Theory Strips are a 10-level program that organize music theory concepts into strips that can easily be completed one day at a time. I love this approach, especially for students who might be overwhelmed at the prospect of working through several pages at a time.
Leila Veiss has written a wonderful post about the “Apps I Use at Every Lesson” that relate to the business side of studio operations. One of the listed apps is Evernote, but she also includes with it a Sample Lesson Note Template that is fabulous!
I love the Glossary of Terms section, especially the brief explanation of what “Learn” and “Master” mean (I guess my students aren’t the only ones that seem confused by what I really meant when I told them to learn a particular piece or portion thereof… ). I also really like her Progress Score numbers and explanations. What a great tool for maintaining consistency and providing tangible instruction and feedback for each lesson!
Our area has received an inordinate amount of snow in the last week so we’ve had a couple of snow days. Whenever my students ask if I’ll be teaching I tell them that my philosophy is that I don’t have to go anywhere so I’ll gladly teach anyone who wants to come for a lesson. However, I know that sometimes it’s not safe or desirable to traverse the icy roads to make it to a piano lesson, so it’s nice to have some other options in place. Plus, I have a number of rural students who were literally snowed into their homes and couldn’t make it out the driveway. Since I don’t offer refunds or make-up lessons, it’s nice for families to know that our studio has other possibilities available to them for these types of situations. Here are some possibilities:
1. Skype (or Facetime for those who have Apple products) – This is definitely the most ideal alternative for those who can’t make it to the studio. I usually use the Skype app on my iPod Touch, but you can also download a free desktop/laptop version which makes this a great option for almost any family!
2. Phone Call – Yeah, this feels pretty 20th Century now, but I actually did give a lesson over the phone yesterday. The internet went out for one of my families, so the kids put their cordless on the speaker phone setting and then propped it on the piano.
3. Instant Messaging -Yes, we’ve actually resorted to this a few times for lessons when we were having sound issues with the video chat. Obviously it doesn’t work for listening to the student play, but you can at least touch base with them, go over assignments, and answer questions. Plus, this is a fun way to invest in your relationship with students and get to know them better!
4. E-mail – Sometimes just putting together an e-mail with some specific suggestions and assignments for the student for the following week can be helpful so they have some direction for their practicing. Even a little bit of accountability and focus like this can help students maintain a regular practice routine.
The bottom line is that I want to be available for my students in any way I can during their lesson time. How do you handle snow days? Any other creative ways you’ve found to teach lessons?
It will be another quiet week here on Music Matters Blog because the studio is closed while I’m in Colorado enjoying the snowy slopes! In the meantime you might be interested in checking out a series of posts I wrote last year on Teaching Tips from Snowboard School:
Part 1 – Be a Pro
Part 2 – Give Students a Vision of Success
Part 3 – Plan a Systematic Approach