By: Renee Bordner
NWE Music Studio Director
One of the frequently asked questions from parents and instructors, is about how much a child should practice their music assignments.
I prefer to have students start with a simple formula. Each student is asked to play each assigned piece four times throughout the week. I encourage students to make their goal of playing each piece a total of twenty times in between the weekly lessons. Students are usually successful if they make tally marks on the music or in their assignment notebooks. This visible tracking system creates an easy opportunity for us to discuss how the practice went throughout the week with the student, parents, caregiver and myself.
In order to keep the practice interesting for our beginner students, I ask them to focus on one element each of the four times they play each piece. The first time, students are encouraged to play the piece through focusing on the correct notes. The second time they are asked to focus on the rhythm and counting out loud or with a metronome (an app can be used). I ask students to focus on dynamics and any articulations the third time through. The fourth time can be a lot of fun for some students and that is when I ask students to sing along while playing. If the piece does not have lyrics, I encourage students to create them!
This system works well with beginner students who need structure in getting started with a solid practice routine. Once a student can consistently achieve the above recommendations, then it is simple to increase the frequency and length of each practice session. The process helps students break down the various elements of music into smaller steps. When a student is in the habit of breaking the music into sections, it is very easy for a student to independently analyze what he or she should practice in a piece.
If your student or you have any questions about setting up a solid practice routine, please feel free to contact me for additional ideas.
Best wishes and have fun practicing!
By: Renee Bordner
NWE Music Studio Director
No really, what is on your music stand? If you are a musician or the parent of a musician, this is an important question. A musician should be working on at least one piece of music that the musician selected to work on. Yes it is very important for student musicians to work on warm ups, scales, method books, technique drills, etc.. If a musician has a recital, audition or competition then of course the musician should be working on preparing for the pieces specific to the event. However, if a musician is not preparing for a major event it is also important for a student musician to explore a wide variety of music that is interesting to him or her! There should be a balance for every music student of what is interesting, motivating and appealing to the student AND what the instructor believes will help the student continue to progress as a well rounded musician. IF you believe that there is not a balance in your student musician's assignments, talk to your instructor and or myself. I am always willing to help find new and creative ways to inspire a student musician. In fact, here are a few of the piano pieces I have learned recently in order to prepare for my students' lessons... A Medley from the Halo 3 Video Games, The theme from the television show The Office, multiple pieces from Frozen 2 and "Sweet Child O' Mine" by Guns & Roses. These pieces were very fun to learn since my students were excited by them.
So, ask yourself and your musician "What's on your music stand?" and consider adding more music that is appealing to your student musician.
By: Renee Bordner
NWE Music Studio Director
As the studio owner, as a piano teacher and as a mom I am often asked when is a good time for someone to start music lessons. I am often asked if a child is too young or a senior citizen is too old. I am happy to address this question here but if you have additional questions, please contact me directly. I am happy to discuss your specific situation and help guide you in deciding what is best.
For me, the answer is very simple. If someone is excited and interested in learning then that is the perfect time or age to learn. Students are never too old! Sometimes students are too young for private one on one lessons and may be more appropriate for a group music and movement setting. I do suggest starting very young students off with shorter lessons and an instructor who specializes in working with beginner students.
We do not have set semesters and required numbers of lessons for students for these very reasons. Not all students' needs and interests fit neatly into semesters and lesson packages. I feel it is best for a student to start lessons when they are ready and interested even if it is in the middle of an academic grading period.
Another question I am often asked is how long of a lesson should my student have. I typically recommend a half hour lesson for a beginner student and then increase the lesson time after a student shows signs of readiness. To me signs of readiness include when a student says things like, "But wait I want to show you this!", when a student is still asking more questions that are relevant to the lesson even after the lesson is over or when a student simply does not have enough material to practice throughout the week. In our Frequently Asked Questions section of our website, you can also see our team's recommendations on lengths of lessons. http://www.note-worthyexperiences.com/faqs.html these recommendations are truly recommendations and not set rules for our students. I always suggest discussing increasing lesson lengths with your instructor to weigh the benefits and discuss expectations.
I am also always happy to discuss lesson plans, lesson readiness and goals for students at any time. Feel free to reach out to me to chat further.
By Renee Bordner
From the Alfred Music Blog
Writing for the Alfred Music Blog, David Pope discusses the challenges presented to students, especially middle and high school students, in the age of instant gratification. He presents tips and strategies for engaging and keeping students motivated to persevere.
Read the entire blog here.
By Kristin McGrail
Spanish teacher, wife, mother, and traveler, Kristin McGrail reflects on the universality of the language of music and on how she has used music to help herself and her students to learn foreign languages. Music is universal but also culturally specific and can therefore help in learning about cultures not only through its lyrics and rhythm, but also through its cultural relevance. McGrail discusses the many ways in which music can aid in the classroom as well as in our individual lives as continual learners.
Click here to read Kristin's entire blog.
Choosing repertoire for competitions can be tricky, and requires a different criterion than choosing repertoire for auditions and juries/examinations. It is important to first understand the difference the requirements for competitions versus the requirements for auditions and juries. Where juries and auditions are geared towards evaluating the skills and technique or the student, competitions also look for the virtuosity and performance quality of the musician or student. The below article from the Music Lesson Resources website covers everything you need to know about choosing repertoire for competitions. Follow the link below:
By Renee Bordner
By now, all of us have heard that having a child study music helps them to become well rounded and score better on standardized tests. Some of you have heard that studying music can delay or prevent dementia and memory related conditions. However, did you know why and how these are all inter related? Did you know that studying music can be an energy boost and increase multi tasking skills? This article was sent to me by my friend Deb Beck, the Chief Creative Rabbit at BigBunny Marketing. The article explains how studying music positively impacts our brains. So you can now skip the energy drinks, sudoku and SAT prep courses to study music instead. The "side effect" is having terrific live music fill your home.
By Margie Meacham
Pythagoras, Greek philosopher and mathematician, is recognized for discovering the relationship between the length of a string on an instrument and the pitch that the string produces. He believed that this correlation was part of a harmonic relationship that connects everything in the universe, which he called “The Music of the Spheres.” While Pythagoras didn’t have the benefit of today’s brain imaging technology, he just may have been right.
Music May Be Our Native Language
Multiple studies in neuroscience and psychology suggest that infants demonstrate an innate ability to respond to music and suggest that, from a processing perspective, “spoken language is a special type of music.” Anthropology suggests that human language and music have a “shared evolutionary history,” demonstrating that as human language evolved, our musical expression evolved along similar lines. This observation originated with Darwin, who suggested that the first humans may have communicated in song, rather than in spoken language as we know it today.
It All Starts With Vibration
Vibration generates waves of high and low compression. Human brains interpret waves that fall between 20 to 20,000 Hz as sound. The vibration, typically carried by the air, enters our ear, eventually stimulates the auditory nerve, which sends a signal to the brain. Here’s where the fun begins: the more generalized sounds that we experience throughout the day are processed primarily in the auditory cortex, where specialized neurons have been tuned to specific frequencies through experience.
But music isn’t just a single sound; it’s a complex weaving of sounds, mixed with rhythm and sometimes language. Using brain imaging technologies, including fMRI and PET scans, neuroscientists have discovered that music engages multiple parts of the brain:
It is this powerful, widespread, and instantaneous effect on multiple parts of the brain that may explain the powerful ways that engaging with music enhances seemingly diverse brain functions. Playing a musical instrument enhances key cognitive functions, including problem solving, memory, planning, attention to detail, and emotional intelligence. Perhaps the best example of how frequent, disciplined playing of music affects these skills is Albert Einstein, who was an accomplished violist and often played his instrument to sort out difficult problems. Listen to just how accomplished he was in this rare recording of him performing.
Our Brains Are Predicting the Next Note.
During our workshop, Essentials of Brain-Based Learning, we investigate the predictive power of the human brain. This predictive capacity is believed to be a key factor in our survival as individuals and as a species. It also is a key part of the learning process and explains why stories are so powerful for engaging learners and changing behavior.
Your brain is constantly performing complex predictive calculations, based on sensory information and memories of experience. This pattern recognition plays out in our ability to read music and convert the written notes into specific movements of our bodies that generate sounds at specific pitches, volumes, durations, and rhythms. Even an untrained brain responds almost immediately to music and begins to predict the next note before it is even played. Watch artist Bobby McFerrin demonstrate how his audience predicts the next note in his performance without prompting.
Applications for Talent Development
As talent development professionals, we need to broaden our view of music and think of it as a core information processing skill, rather than an aesthetic “nice to have” pastime. Engaging with music can help your audience:
Margie Meacham is an adult learning expert with a master of science in learning technologies and more than 15 years of experience in the field. A self-described “scholar-practitioner,” Margie collaborates with like-minded instructional designers to find practical applications of neuroscience to instructional design. You can follow Margie on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter or visit her website at www.learningtogo.info.
By Renee Bordner
Attention all students, parents and instructors!
Are you interested in increasing your productivity? Are you interested in increasing your happiness and personal satisfaction? While I cannot make you more productive, efficient, or happy I can help you learn a little bit more about yourself and your way of thinking.
Carol Dweck's research has been out for several years. A few years ago, all of the local public school faculty members were asked to read her book AND attend training workshops. Teachers and coaches around the globe are talking about growth versus fixed mindset.
Personally, I truly believe that Carol Dweck's philosophies on Growth and Fixed Mindsets are accurate. One could say it is like the old saying, "Bloom where you are planted" but add your own fertilizer!
I read and listen to a lot of material about how to motivate and inspire students. I found this video today and I just wanted to share it with you. I like this one as it is shorter than many, it is animated AND it has a music example in it.
If you find this video useful, check out more information about Ms. Dweck's research. If you find another resource that you find helpful please share it with me as I enjoy learning about teaching, motivating and inspiring others.
Renee Bordner is the Studio Director of Note-worthy Experiences Music Studio, the Chair of the Sudbury chapter of the National Piano Guild, and a private piano instructor.