In case anyone is wondering about the lack of posting around here…my computer crashed a little over a week ago and has been out of commission ever since. It’s definitely slowing things down around the studio, but I’m hopeful that either it will be up and running again soon or I’ll be able to get a new system. We’ll see what transpires in the next week or two!
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.
With Easter this past Sunday, the song “The Holy City” came to mind so I looked it up on YouTube and found this gem:
What an impressive example of embracing any environment or equipment to present a beautiful musical experience! (I probably would have complained to no end about having to play such a piece on an electronic keyboard with no music rack…) This should be an inspiration to every music student to work toward musical artistry and excellence!
Destined to take its place among the world’s premier international classical music challenge events, the World Pianist Invitational is a two-part competition.
Phase I – which officially launches this week – is an online entry activity through which aspiring competitors, aged 5-29,will submit a video recording of their classical piano performance to a blue chip panel of international judges. From those submissions – and we are capping the entries at 2,500 – five finalists across five age groups (25 performers total) will be invited to participate in Phase II – a live concert performance at the world renowned Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Washington, D.C.
Sounds like a pretty exciting new event for pianists! You can find out more on the World Pianist Invitational website.
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!
It is now second nature to turn to search engines like Google and Bing to find just about anything. Guess what? Your potential students (and their parents) are searching for a music teacher online right this minute. There are over 1 million music-learning-related searches every month on Google alone!
There’s a growing wave of music teachers benefiting from this trend by moving their studios online: teaching students across the globe, filling slow hours with students from other time zones, building their rosters…and earning more income!
Is it for me? Can I actually do this?
You’re already a great teacher and that’s the most important thing! Here’s a checklist of considerations to begin teaching music online:
* Have you used your webcam for Skyping or other video chat applications? This is your fundamental communication tool. Setup for live online music lessons is easy and generally just requires a laptop with a built in webcam. Here are some ideas on how to set up your online teaching studio.
* Do you have adequate high speed Internet? Great video quality needs at least 1 Mbps of ‘upload’ speed (test your connection speed here: www.speedtest.net). If you consider that each online student spends at least $60 per month on lessons, upgrading your internet connection is well worth the investment.
* Are you active online? Kudos to you if you’re already spending time building your online presence with a website, a blog, YouTube channel, or by participating in forums. Check out these 4 simple ways to build your online presence.
Does it really work?
Most emphatically, yes! Many teachers report that students exhibit higher levels of concentration and faster progress when focused on a screen. Wayne Land, a saxophone teacher with 40+ years experience had this to say of online music instruction:
There’s no guarantee that any method of taking lessons will work unless the student is committed to practicing. That commitment needs to come from a profound desire to learn. When one has that kind of internal need to make music, the practice time is something the student looks forward to and enjoys. Likewise, the lesson time should be something looked forward to and enjoyed. With everything in music learning, lesson time and practice time, I strongly believe that if you aren’t enjoying what you’re doing you aren’t improving. Conversely, if you are enjoying your effort you “are” improving. It makes little difference whether the teacher is sitting in the room next to you or speaking to you via online video chat unless there is a difference in the level of enjoyment. Considering the advantages of taking your lessons right in the comfort of your own home, the online experience may actually improve the level of enjoyment and that is a very good thing indeed.
Yes, it works. In fact, if the student has a more enjoyable experience, is less apprehensive and more enthusiastic, it can and will work “better” than in person.
How do I get started?
So you’re ready to start building your online teaching studio. Now what? The web is a massive space and…chock full of great ways to waste your money and valuable time!
If you plan on going it alone on a platform like Skype, you’ll need to split your time between teaching and marketing. That’s a tall order when you consider that a website, blog, ads, and a Facebook page (among others) are essential to getting the word out about your service.
If that sounds like too much of a distraction from the teaching itself, consider joining an online music lessons platform like The ZOEN. Let the professionals make a daily habit of using their marketing tools to attract students so you can focus on what you makes you special and valuable: teaching music!
However you choose to slice it, online music lessons are a great opportunity for teachers, and the possibilities for online music instruction are endless.
Phil Amalong is a teacher, composer, performer, entrepreneur and VP of Community and Content at The ZOEN. For more insights into online music teaching and best practices, visit Phil’s Blog. To start teaching for The ZOEN, apply now.
The ZOEN 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 me an e-mail and I’ll let you know about our advertising packages.