Old songs often linger in your head. Sometimes it's a pleasure and other times it's an annoyance, but those songs may be hugely significant for people suffering from neurological disorders.
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Simple, but profound, and this concept of valuing incremental progress finds its way into all walks of life, beyond music. If you exercise, you will gain strength. If you clean, your environment will become more pleasant. If you communicate, your projects will go more smoothly. If you are thoughtful and loving in your relationships, they will strengthen. Even if all you do is fifteen minutes per day.
Developing the habit of regular practice on your instrument is the most important factor in how you will improve over time.
What practice means, though, varies between different people. This is a dangerous fact to drop, but I have known several world-class artists, playing in the world’s finest orchestras and with GRAMMY awards on their bookshelves, who have admitted to me that they seldom practice, in the traditional sense. No endless scales, no method books, no tedious drills. However, they do rehearse several times a week, if not every day.
So, they are getting the hours in a their instruments. And I suspect at the beginning of their careers, or as children, they did put in some time developing technique.
Building the initial momentum is the hardest part, so here are a few tips for getting the ball rolling.
New studies on the cognitive advantages of learning instruments at early ages
Several times a week, a group of at-risk youth in Los Angeles reports to makeshift music rooms at Alexandria Elementary School near Koreatown for lessons in violin or cello or bass—and to Saturday ensemble programs where they learn to play with bands and orchestras. As the students study their instruments, researchers study the students’ brains.
The children, who devote at least five hours per week to their music, are participants in the award-winning non-profit Harmony Project, which provides free instruments and instruction to kids in underserved areas of the city if they promise to stay in school. The scientists, who hail from Northwestern University’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory, travel from Evanston, Illinois to a satellite lab in Hollywood for a few weeks each year to examine the impact of the music lessons on the children’s language and cognitive skills. What they are finding, according to Dr. Nina Kraus, a professor and neuroscientist at Northwestern and lead researcher of the study, is that music instruction not only improves children’s communication skills, attention, and memory, but that it may even close the academic gap between rich and poor students. Kraus reported these results in a National Endowment of the Arts-sponsored webinar in July.
When Plato said that music gives “wings to the mind,” he might have been onto something. Recent studies increasingly point to the power of music to shape the brain and boost its functioning.
Excerpted from "Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning"Here’s a study that may surprise you. A group of eight-year-olds practiced tossing beanbags into buckets in gym class. Half of the kids tossed into a bucket three feet away. The other half mixed it up by tossing into buckets two feet and four feet away. After twelve weeks of this they were all tested on tossing into a three-foot bucket. The kids who did the best by far were those who’d practiced on two- and four-foot buckets but never on three-foot buckets.
Why is this? We will come back to the beanbags, but first a little insight into a widely held myth about how we learn.
The Myth of Massed Practice
Most of us believe that learning is better when you go at something with single-minded purpose: the practice-practice-practice that’s supposed to burn a skill into memory. Faith in focused, repetitive practice of one thing at a time until we’ve got it nailed is pervasive among classroom teachers, athletes, corporate trainers, and students. Researchers call this kind of practice “massed,” and our faith rests in large part on the simple fact that when we do it, we can see it making a difference. Nevertheless, despite what our eyes tell us, this faith is misplaced.
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Good news if you can’t hold a beat: An app called Steve Reich’s Clapping Music might be able to fix you. Clapping Music, from the British app shop Touchpress, is a gamified lesson in tempo.
It's no secret that learning to play an instrument has ENORMOUS positive effects on the brain, academic and social development, and a host of other areas. The science has been coming in for some time now, and we wanted to share some of it with you. But you don't have to take our word for it. Check out the links below and see what the experts have to say.
Enjoy, and we hope to see you soon for your first lesson!
25 'Note'worthy Benefits of Playing A Musical Instrument - Musicoomph.com
The Many Benefits of Music Lessons - Toronto Star
5 Reasons To Play A Musical Instrument - About Education
Music Lessons Before Age 7 Boost Brain Link - CBC
Playing Music Makes You Smart - Live Science
Music Makes You Smarter, Happier - Winnipeg Free Press
Music Aids Alzheimers Patients In Remembering New Information - Science Daily
Music Moves Brain To Pay Attention - Stanford Medicine
Sorry Kids, Piano Lessons Make You Smarter - Forbes
Music And Language Processed By The Same Brain Systems - Science Daily
Even A Few Years Of Music Training Benefits The Brain - Scientific American
Musicians Use Both Sides Of The Brain More Frequently - Vanderbilt University
The Link Between Music And A Child's Math Abilities - Public School Review
Musicians Spot Mistakes More Quickly And More Accurately Than Non-Musicians - The Independent
Is Music The Key To Success - New York Times
Principal fires security guards to hire art teachers — and transforms elementary school - NBC Nightly News
Everything I Need To Know, I Learned In School Music Class - Toronto Star
Singing Improves Ability To Learn A Foreign Language - Inquisitr
One of the biggest concerns of any music student - either current or prospective – is whether they have time to practice, or how long they should practice. They call it playing music, and it is fun and rewarding, but it's also challenging and can be frustrating, and it all happens at home. You're not alone, and it doesn't have to be overwhelming. There are no rules, you get out of it what you put into it. It's all a matter of perspective!
You Have the Time
The issue of whether or not you have enough time to practice is, to be frank, nonsense. If you have a Netflix subscription, you have time to practice. If you checked your Facebook account (or looked at and "liked" our fantastic Facebook page), you have time to practice. We know of no individual who has absolutely zero time at their disposal to practice, so let’s eliminate that right off the bat. There are 10,080 minutes in a week, and we get to see you usually for 30 to 60 minutes. Obviously, there will be some work to do on your own. In the course of a typical day, everyone has a few extra minutes, just take a look at how you organize them. It's easier than you think!
Since you do have time to practice, how long should you be practicing? Obviously, it depends on what your goals are and your level of dedication, but most beginner students can get away with about 10-15 minutes a day. The hard part is making sure that the work is consistent. Don't practice HARD, practice SMART. 5 minutes of focused work on a weaker area is far more productive than an hour of playing things you're already comfortable with. Prioritize weak spots and make your goals smaller and more attainable, then do as much as you need to in order to feel like you've accomplished something. 30 minutes is a rough suggestion, it takes as long as it takes. Have a goal and a plan before you begin. Feel good about accomplishing a goal, then end on a positive - play the easy stuff for a few minutes to finish confidently and have some fun!
Lots of Little Meals
Getting better at music is a lot like eating. You need to consumer a certain amount in a given time frame, but it’s a lot healthier to ingest in smaller, more consistent amounts. Would you rather eat one enormous meal in a day, or three meals plus a couple of snacks? It’s the same with practice: One day a week for 75 minutes will not be nearly as effective as five days and 15 minutes per day.
Repetition, Repetition, Repetition
It’s all part of how the human brain makes new connections. Brains love when people repeat things over and over again. It’s how you learned to walk, learned to read, learned to ride a bike. Music is no different. The act of simply doing will move things forward, even if you don’t always feel like you’re moving that way.
Feeling Good About Yourself
A lot of beginning music students (and indeed, our more advanced ones as well) feel self conscious playing a certain section, or get frustrated by being unable to perform a phrase or two. But rather than work out the difficult sections, other parts that have been learned are repeated simply because they already sound good. They make us feel good about ourselves. When you play something that doesn’t sound as good, you don’t feel as good. Again, it’s human nature.
But think about this: If you can make even a single bar of a section you couldn’t play before sound good, that’s one more unit of music that can add to your pleasure. Taking pride in little moments means you’ll be feeling victorious more of the time, rather than worried about the sections you can’t play right away. Don’t worry; they’ll come in time just like the single bar you just conquered.
Even your teacher was just where you are, at some point. We do understand the frustration and demotivation you feel when something is a challenge. But we also know the pride and satisfaction of overcoming those challenges. Our job and passion is helping motivate students to achieve their very best. We really love music, and we want to help you experience what we are fortunate enough to experience every day.
Just so you know: We all continue to practice to this day. We love music. The pleasure of hearing that section come together, the pride of knowing we are creating beautiful music that much better than we did the day before. Truly, the journey never ends. We have all dedicated our lives to our craft, and we are all continuing to learn. It might not be your ambition, but what you do now is a lifelong gift to yourself even if you don't think so now. The only regrets we have are for things we didn't do, and there's nothing to lose. And remember, you are not alone!
Your teacher has lots of tips and strategies to help you deal with practicing, and they are always happy to share their knowledge and experience with you to make things as easy as possible. In fact, that's our job! Don't be shy, we're here to help. Here are a few strategies and ideas for tackling the practice monster.
Pacific Standard - Jan 16, 2014
A recently concluded study of young musicians shows that a long term musical identity is critical in motivation.
"...those with only a short-term commitment to music “were not able to attain the same results, or sustain motivation, for as long as those with a long-term identity”—even if they practiced as much as their peers."
Read the whole article here.
Information and Communications Technology Council Report:
Support Music Education, Scenes to Foster Skilled Tech Workforce
22 August 2013 | Support from all levels of government for music education and scenes can help foster a talented tech workforce a report published today shows. Music education, the report finds, helps bridge gaps between technical know-how and critical soft skills, while the presence of music scenes in cities can help attract and retain skilled workers.
(READ THE FULL REPORT.)