3 Summer Activities And How They Help Your Child Grow (Piano)

3 (Fun!) Summer Activities That Help Your Child Grow [Infographic]

fun summer activities for kids

Summer is here! With school out and the temperatures rising, no doubt your kids are excited to play. But beyond the summer camps, sleepovers, bike rides, and water balloon fights, stealthy parents know how to encourage activities that can actually help kids grow and learn!

Don’t worry — that doesn’t mean workbooks or summer homework. We’ve got three fun summer activities in mind that kids will be excited to participate in, and ones that will build confidence at the same time.

  • First up? Music lessons! If your son or daughter loves to sing along to songs when you turn on the radio, music lessons are a natural fit. And there are so many different lesson types to consider, from piano to guitar to saxophone.
  • For the more introverted or bookworm types, learning a language — like Spanish or French — might be a great choice. Of course, your child won’t become fluent over the course of one summer… but it can be a fun introduction to new cultures! Plus, it’s easy to find fun games and apps that support language learning.
  • Finally, if your child can’t stop moving, sports like soccer and softball are a great way to keep him or her busy. They’ll never know they’re actually improving their teamwork and goal-setting skills!

Here’s a recap of all the surprising stats you need to know about these fun summer activities for kids.

3 Fun Summer Activities That Help Your Child Grow [Infographic]

Whether your child is athletic, musically inclined, or interested in learning another language, summer is the perfect time to enroll them in classes and nurture a new hobby. And knowing your son or daughter is also growing and learning, you can sit back and relax this summer — just as the season was intended for.

Ready to get started? Search for fun summer activities, classes, and lessons near you!

Photos by Philippe PutDark Dwarf, and l. c.

 

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How to Make a Living Doing What You Love

Musicians, Here’s How to Make a Living Doing What You Love

How to Make a Living Doing What You Love

Ready to take your talents to the masses, but not sure how to get music gigs? In this guest post, our friends over at GigSalad share a few helpful tips to help you start your gigging career…

 

It’s safe to say that almost every musician dreams of making a career out of their talent. However, many artists are intimidated and unsure of where to begin. If you’re serious about your music, and you know you want to succeed in the industry, there are a few essential steps to help you find music gigs and kickstart your career. By applying these few simple methods to actively promote yourself, you’ll be well on your way to making a living doing what you love.

Practice, practice, practice. We know you probably hear this enough from your teachers, but your practice hours are crucial to your sound. It’s what attracts fans and keeps your calendar booked, so before you start your gigging endeavors, make sure you’ve mastered your performance.

You need a solid web presence. In order to line up your first few gigs, you have to put your talent in front of a lot of eyes and ears. One of the best (and cheapest) ways to do this is by promoting yourself online. There are many marketing tools available for musicians, but don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to utilize them all. Just focus on these few, and you will have a stronger impact.

  • Find a website builder. You don’t have to be tech-savvy to have a great place to host your music. There are several website builders that make it easy to plug your media into a beautifully designed template. You’ll want to choose one that is mobile-friendly, can be easily customized, and offers stylistic flexibility. We recommend Bandzoogle because it’s built specifically for musicians to add downloadable music files, gig calendars, and band merch. Having a beautifully designed website is an excellent way to gain more fans.
  • Use your social media. Your social platforms are a great way to engage your audience and attract new fans. You can notify followers of your upcoming shows, get feedback from past performances, and even find out what kind of music they’d like to hear in the future. And by activating the new Facebook call-to-action button, you can get booked directly from your page! To truly maximize your opportunities, consider going outside of your own social media feeds. When you connect with other local performers, venues, and community groups, you’re exposing your business to their followers as well. Liking other posts instead of just asking users to like yours creates a more direct relationship with those users.

Get gigs by playing gigs. At the beginning of a gigging career, often times artists will put on free shows to get started. These performances are typically in smaller, more intimate venues such as coffee shops, libraries, or house parties. Although these are unpaid gigs, they can still offer other valuable benefits. Any gig opportunity helps boost your stage presence, earns you the spotlight, and gives you a chance to recruit more fans.

Surround yourself with musicians. Not only do you get a chance to chat with people who have the same interests, but you can also learn a lot from these conversations. The music scene is constantly evolving, and your fellow musicians can keep you updated on the latest trends and tips that have helped them. This also gives you a great opportunity to create mutual referrals for future gigs.

Connect with venue owners. Venue owners come in contact with a ton of musicians, so it’s important to make yourself stand out. Introduce yourself in person, and be sure to leave them a link to that great website you’ve created to promote your music. Because of their heavy workload, it’s a good idea to send them a follow-up email if you haven’t received a response after a few days.

There are a lot of tips out there for musicians who are just starting their gigging careers, and it can feel daunting to consider all of them. Every musician is unique in their journey to success, so make the moves that feel right for you. By perfecting your talent, creating a strong web presence, and connecting with the right people, you can considerably boost your gigging opportunities.

Readers, what other strategies do you use to find music gigs? Let us know in the comments!

Post Author: Tessie Barnett
Tessie Barnett is the content writer for GigSalad, an online platform for artists to promote their talent, connect with event hosts and planners, and get booked for private and public gigs ranging from weddings and parties to corporate events and festivals. As the largest entertainment booking platform in the U.S. and Canada, GigSalad helps talented people do what they love.

Photo by Lauren Liggett

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Can You Identify the Weird Instruments Featured in Rolling Stone’s Top-100?

What do the contrabassoon, the swarmandal, and the finger cymbal all have in common? They all play an important part in the greatest songs of all time! Berklee Online recently took a look at Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and focused in on the top 100 to give us an inside look at the music that has shaped our lives. From pop songs with flute to songs for alto sax, there’s something special about hearing unique instruments used in creative ways by some of the world’s most famous and beloved musicians.

So, think you can identify some of the weird instruments on this list? Check out the awesome infographic below to test your knowledge of these classic tunes!

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So how’d you do? Were you able to name some of the weird instruments in this list? If anything, this infographic proves that great music comes from unique instruments and dynamite musicians – and great things happen when the two come together!

No matter what instrument you play, taking private lessons with a quality music instructor can take your musical skills to the next level! Who knows — someday we might see one of your songs on this list!

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learn to beatbox

How Beatboxing Can Help Your Child Become a Better Musician

learn to beatboxWant to help your child become a better singer or musician? Beatboxing may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but you’d be surprised at how learning this skill can supplement your child’s music lessons. Learn more in this guest post…

 

Musicianship is a funny thing. Whether trained in jazz, opera, classical, or soul, you can bet your bottom dollar that there are a range of techniques and tricks you would have never expected to be of help in boosting your child’s budding musical skill. One of these techniques is beatboxing.

Yes, beatboxing: an a cappella style of music-making via vocal percussion. Beatboxing not only teaches your child a greater sense of timing and rhythm, it also improves listening skills and can actually work to strengthen and protect his or her vocal cords. What’s more, it will widen your child’s musical scope, which will improve creativity and overall musicianship.

Here’s a quick breakdown of why learning to beatbox can help young musicians get on top of their musical game:

Aural Skills and Improvising

You can’t learn to beatbox from sheet music; you need to be able to listen and repeat in a ‘copycat’ style — training your mind to get used to the way the sounds can work together. Eventually, the goal is to be able to improvise using the sounds you’ve learned to make. Being able to improvise relies almost completely on strong aural skills, and the best way to strengthen them is through the same sort of ‘listen-and-repeat’ style of exercises, precisely what children will learn when they try their hand at beatboxing.

Rhythm and Timing

Beatboxing is essentially a way of creating a sequence of different rhythms, which play off each other to create a complicated, yet logical, sequence of beats. To pull this off, musicians need a pretty firm understanding of musical timing and how different rhythmic and percussive sounds can combine to create a particular effect. Having a strong sense of rhythm and being able to play to complicated time signatures will be a necessity as your child becomes a more developed musician — no matter what style or instrument they’re learning.

For instance, jazz musicians need a strong handle on syncopation, a way of playing unexpected rhythms that are sometimes off-beat. Learning how to create fast, complicated rhythms from sequences of quick, improvised beats will boost your child’s technical prowess and confidence over difficult passages.  Plus, being able to move in time to a steady beat is also linked to stronger language and reading skills.

Breath Control

Being able to breathe properly is essential to beatboxing. For singers and woodwind players, having good breath control is just as important. When you beatbox, you need to know how to command breath to produce different types of sounds, from a higher ‘hi-hat’ sound to a bass drum. There’s also the need to have enough breath to carry on with the performance, which means your child will need to learn how to incorporate breath into the beat itself.

For vocalists, strong breath control is one of the most important factors in controlling your voice. Whether belting out a gospel tune or shattering glass with a powerful aria, they’ll need to know exactly the amount of breath that’s required to create the tone and sound they want. How young musicians learn to exhale will alter the quality of the sound, volume, pitch, and tone of their voice; so learning how to manipulate it as a beatboxer will increase control over their range. It’s the same principle for woodwind players: different types of exhaled breath will resonate differently through the instrument, each bringing out a different sound and tone.

Protecting the Vocal Cords

As well as the benefits for your child’s capabilities as a musician, beatboxing can actually help strengthen and protect the vocal cords. When you sing, you rely almost entirely on your vocal cords to produce sound, which — when overused — can lead to the development of scar tissue. However, beatboxers use their entire vocal tract to create different sounds, which spreads energy across different structures, therefore minimizing strain on one particular area. Muscles used when beatboxing work to elongate the vocal tract, which can also help singers reach higher notes.

Getting Started

The best thing about beatboxing is that you first learn by copying. While it’s always easiest to be led by a tutor who knows what they’re doing, there are plenty of video tutorials online to help your child get his or her head around beatboxing before formally heading in for a lesson.

Your child will typically start to learn to beatbox by learning how to make percussion sounds like a drum kit. For instance, they’ll be able to mimic sounds of hi-hat cymbal, the tom-tom, and bass drum, and learn how to put them together to make basic beats. As they get better, they’ll learn more complex sounds to add to the mix.

learn to beatboxMonica Karpinski is a staff member at Ingenium Academy, a summer music program for talented young musicians around the world, aged 14-18. All students are taught beatboxing, regardless of style, previous training, or instrument they play.

 

 

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What Does it Take to Become a Session Musician?

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Want to earn money playing and performing music? Set yourself up on the path to success with these career tips from Corona, CA music teacher Milton J.

 

Many aspiring musicians dream of being discovered and becoming the next best superstar. However, many others must also face the music that there is a certain amount of luck and chance in getting that seven-figure record deal. In lieu of sitting, waiting, and wishing for that big break, creating smaller breaks for yourself could make that eventual discovery much easier for A&R representatives and record executives, not to mention creating a source of income for yourself in the industry you love.

Some of your interests may include songwriting, producing, band leading, or being a creative manager of a music project. These roles often define the dynamics of a band or production, and can help you achieve your eventual goal of sustained financial gains and fame. They also own the most profitable portions of the music industry — copyrighted songs and publishing and performance royalties. Yes, that means the person who writes the lyrics and the melodies can potentially earn just as much or more than the artist who sings and performs it.

If you have an interest in instrumental or supportive work in a band as opposed to or in conjunction with songwriting, session musicianship would be a perfect launching pad for you. Musicians who choose to engage in session musicianship work with lots of different people, which makes for a successful career by sharing technical and musical expertise with many walks of life in the music industry. In order to do this successfully, you need to build yourself a good reputation and network constantly to create as many connections as possible. If this appeals to your twinkling piano or guitar fingers or tickles your vocal cords, here are some helpful tips on readying yourself to be a successful session musician!

Be Technically Proficient

Whether for recordings or live gigs, you need to be able to get it right, and fast! Sight reading or the ability to pick up songs by ear are very useful in this case (that means private music lessons with your local TakeLessons teacher are a must!).

Be Stylistically Versatile

Being able to play in multiple genres of music will increase your possible session gigs, which will lead to more opportunities and financial gains!

Be a Diplomat

Give your opinion if someone asks for it, but don’t overstep your boundaries, as you’re there to help fulfill a vision.

Be Picky

To begin, accepting session gigs from anyone from various genres will help to build your name and enhance your session workshop aptitude, but after a while you should focus on choosing bands that are professional and give you an element of security in terms of work, tours, earnings, and payouts or shares of future royalties.

Be Flexible With Your Time and Money

You have to be prepared to be away for an extended period of time at the drop of a hat if you’re asked to go on tour with an artist. Also, sometimes you may have a downturn in potential session gigs, and you’ll need to be financially prudent. Prepare yourself for these possibilities with your housing, bills, and finances.

Become a Multi-Instrumentalist

Being able to play multiple instruments (I personally play guitar and piano in addition to vocals) gives you more opportunities to help out and fill in with various roles, which can both set you apart from other session musicians and lead to increased pay.

Know Your Gear

Being knowledgable about – as well as owning your own – equipment is important. It makes everything easier if you show up ready to go with all your gear, and you know what to do with it to help provide the sound the lead artist is looking for.

Know Your Rights

Make sure you have clear and written-consented agreements on recordings about any royalty entitlements.

Frequent a Place With a Thriving Music Scene

Although the Internet surely helps to solve this problem to an extent, it’s a good idea to frequent an area where you know and work with the local music scene and/or touring acts, which could lead to more work opportunities and good honest connections.

Identify With Your Music

This will make your career much more fulfilling, and will show the best and most expressive side of your musicality. Isn’t this what it’s all about?

If this sounds like something you would like to pursue, then the world is truly your oyster. Time is of the essence to channel your love for music into your job!

MiltonJMilton J. teaches guitar, piano, singing, music recording, music theory, opera voice, songwriting, speaking voice, and acting lessons in Corona, CA. He specializes in classical, R&B, soul, pop, rock, jazz, and opera styles. Learn more about Milton here!

 

 

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What Does it Take to Become a Music Therapist?

how to become a music therapist

Curious about some of the career options you have that involve playing and performing music — but don’t want to be on stage in front of thousands of screaming fans? Learn how to become a music therapist and what the job entails in this guest post by Ann Arbor, MI teacher Elaina R

 

The therapeutic effects of music are no secret; just think of how much better your favorite song makes you feel after a bad day. One excellent way to channel music into a career – and to help others along the way – is to become a music therapist. Music therapy capitalizes on the soothing, healing aspects of music to help people in difficult situations.

Music therapists work with all kinds of people, from those with physical or mental disabilities to those dealing with terminal illness. By applying music in a scientific way, these professionals are often able to achieve impressive results. Whether you want to become a music therapist or simply looking to hire one, it helps to understand what it takes to become a music therapist.

What is a Music Therapist?

A music therapist is a therapist who uses music to treat patients. Unlike other therapists, who often work in offices (think of the stereotypical “therapist’s couch”), music therapists often work directly in hospitals, clinics, and other centers where their services are needed. They sing and play guitar and piano during sessions.

What Are the Benefits of Music Therapy?

Music therapists often work with specific demographics of people for whom normal therapy is less effective. This includes people suffering from mental illnesses such as autism and Alzheimer’s disease; drug and alcohol abuse patients; young children; and crisis and trauma patients. Plenty of research has been conducted on the subject, showing that music therapy is effective for treating dementia, anxiety, depression, and numerous other conditions.

How to Become a Music Therapist

There are two steps to becoming a music therapist: getting a degree in Music Therapy and passing the American Musical Therapy Association’s exam to become board certified. There are dozens of universities that offer degrees in Music Therapy across the country.

The Music Therapy Degree

Since music therapy is a combination of musicianship and psychology, music therapy students are required to study both. You are also required to perform internships in clinics, where you’ll get hands-on experience working with patients. Here’s a quick breakdown of what that means.

  • The Music Side: Music therapists take many of the same courses as music majors, including conducting, music history, theory, and composition. You are also required to study voice, piano, and guitar, as well as perform in ensembles (such as choir).
  • The Therapy Side: Expect courses in human development, therapy, and psychopathology. Music therapists also have to study the psychological effects of music, learn how to apply music in therapeutic situations, and practice applying them through internships.
  • The Internship: During internships, you’ll work with patients under the supervision of licensed therapists. It’s a pretty serious commitment involving 1,200 hours – that’s about 150 8-hour days – of working in clinics with patients with a variety of ailments. You will work in at least three different places during these internships, and advanced students perform supervised music therapy sessions.

The Test

Once you get your degree in Music Therapy, you are eligible to take the American Music Therapy Association’s exam. If you pass the exam, you earn a Music Therapist Board Certification that allows you to become professional music therapist.

The Power of Music

If you want to become a music therapist, know that it is arguably even harder than becoming a traditional therapist. Not only will you have to study therapy and psychology, you will have to study music as well (and become adept at three different instruments). But music is a powerful force, and musical therapists get to use that power to help others in an extremely rewarding career.

ElainaElaina R. teaches opera voice and singing in Ann Arbor, MI, as well as through online lessons. She is currently working on a Master of Music at the University of Michigan, and she has a B.M. from the University of Southern California. Learn more about Elaina here!

 

 

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3 reasons music lessons make a great christmas gift

3 Reasons Why Music Lessons Make the Perfect Christmas Gift

3 reasons music lessons make a great christmas gift

Looking for the perfect gift for a creative child this holiday season? Musical instruments and equipment are always among popular ideas for Christmas gifts, so why not put a gift certificate for music lessons under the tree too? Music lessons are truly the gift that keeps on giving.

Not convinced? Check out these three wonderful reasons why music lessons are the perfect gift to give for the holidays.

Learning Music Helps Kids Build Character

As kids learn new skills, such as playing a musical instrument, they gain a big confidence boost. Additionally, the process of studying, practicing, and performing teaches kids how to set and achieve goals outside of school.

Kids taking music lessons also benefit from gaining a new outlet to express their emotions and explore their creativity. Whether they are learning to play their favorite songs or writing songs of their own, music lessons teach kids a lot more than just the notes in the scale.

Learning Music Makes Kids Smarter

In case you haven’t heard, many studies have shown that taking music lessons can actually make you smarter. Playing a musical instrument activates multiple areas of the brain, increases a child’s ability to focus, and advances coordination. Music education also improves kids’ listening skills and may help them get ahead in subjects ranging from language to math.

Experiences Make Us Happier Than Things

Psychological research has shown time and again that our experiences in life give us more lasting happiness than our possessions do. Though most ideas for Christmas gifts are long lists of things, perhaps giving experiences is a better way to extend the joy of the holidays all year long. Music lessons are a wonderful experience that contribute to personal and academic growth in children, so why not give them to a special kid on your holiday shopping list?

Do you have any ideas for creative Christmas gifts? Tell us all about your ideas in the comments below! 

 

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6 Resources for Creating Your Own Sheet Music

Tips On Writing Your Own Sheet MusicAs you develop your musical skills, you may become interested in writing your own music. While learning to play an instrument and being able to play others’ music is a wonderful skill, nothing compares to creating sheet music full of your own compositions!

As a budding songwriter, you’ll need to add some additional skills to your repertoire. Writing music can be as simple as putting a pen to paper, or you can take advantage of the many songwriting tools technology offers. Whether you’re sketching out notes for yourself, writing the next pop hit, or creating sheet music of arrangements for a big band, the most important step is to just get started.

First: Where to Find Free Blank Sheet Music

The easiest method is the oldest! Nothing beats a crisp blank piece of staff paper as you pick up your pen and begin your musical journey. There are many free resources online for printing blank staff paper. Here are two of the best:

This website allows you to print any kind of blank sheet music for free. No matter what instrument you’re writing for, you can find pre-designed sheet music for it here. They offer blank pages set up for piano and keyboard (grand staff), blank guitar tab, bass clef, blank mandolin sheet music, and even sheet music set-up for choir.

Music-paper.com is a site that not only offers more than 100 different downloadable and printable PDFs of blank staff paper, it also offers information on how to write music! Whether you’re looking for paper to jot down your next pop song or orchestral opus, you’ll find it here for free.

Next: Apps & Programs for Writing Music

Technology has changed the way we do almost everything, and writing music is no exception. Today, there are hundreds of applications and programs that can get you started composing on your laptop, desktop, tablet, or smartphone.  They range in price from free to several hundred dollars. Here are some of the best:

MuseScore is a free program that allows you to create, play, and print sheet music. It’s a great alternative to professional notation programs like Sibelius and Finale (see below). Muse Score is available for Mac and Windows along with various open source systems like Linux and Fedora. When you visit the MuseScore website, make sure to take advantage of their online video tutorials to help you get started.

Available for free on the Google Apps store, Music Composer works on your Android smartphone or tablet. It’s an intuitive, easy-to-use application that helps you notate your musical ideas on the go, whenever and wherever inspiration strikes!

It features a notation editor (that supports chords), and easy options to change tempo, clef, key signature, time signature, keys, and instruments. Also, Music Composer comes with 128 instrument sounds built in so you can hear your music played as you write it! When you’re finished composing, you can then export your sheet music as a printable image file or a playable audio file.

Sibelius is the world’s best-selling music notation software used by professional composers, publishers, and advanced music students. It allows you to quickly express and promote your music, allowing you to share both audio and video of your work. It is the fastest, smartest, and easiest way to write music for performance, film, television, or the classroom. It’s a professional tool worth considering if you are serious about composing.

Finale is another professional-level music notation program. Many music programs are drag-and-drop interfaces where you select items from a menu and drop them on the staff, but Finale offers complete freedom and flexibility. It offers extremely realistic playback of your compositions and allows you to print charts and scores.

Finale also offers several lower-priced, upgradable products, including Printmusic (a “lite”version of Finale, at $119.95), which can print up to 24 staves. Another option, Songbook, is a free digital sheet music app for your tablet — great for bringing all of your music to rehearsal on your tablet!

Composing is natural next step as your music skills advances. Whether you take the simplest approach of putting pen to paper, opt for free notation apps, or invest in a professional-level notation program, the key is to just get started! A great way to learn about composition is to work with a qualified teacher. If you already study with one, ask your teacher to help you. He or she can offer insight into the best way to get started and can help you with the learning curve if you choose to use software. Good luck!

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From Toy Pianos to Ukes: Gift Ideas for Musically-Inclined Kids

Music Instruments For KidsWould you love to give your child the gift of music? Introducing music into the life of your child provides an array of benefits, from the sheer joy of music to improved coordination, social and verbal skills, core competency skills, and more. From toy pianos for kids to technological fun, there are a variety of ways to introduce music into the life of a child.

Pass the love of music on to your child with these great gift ideas:

Toy Pianos & Keyboards
From stomping piano dance mats to mini baby grands with microphones, you can’t beat tickling the ivories for having a little musical fun with your kids. What’s more, toy pianos for kids can teach a multitude of skills, from focus and commitment to the confidence that comes from learning notes and playing their first song. Keyboard skills can build coordination and hand strength as well as spatial cognitive skills that help with math later in life.

Drum Sets, Bongos, & More
What kid doesn’t love whacking things? Add a stick and double the pleasure! Beyond the sheer fun factor, percussion instruments have a lot to offer, including increased physical stamina and better coordination. They also aid children academically, improving concentration, increasing the brain’s development, and complimenting core studies. Go pro with a 5-piece drum set with cymbals, or go light on your wallet – and the gear – with Paper Jamz drums. There are also an array of percussion options for babies and toddlers as well, including the fun and saliva-proof Nino by Meinl Fruit Shakers and Melissa & Doug Band in a Box. Special note: Sound-proof room not included!

Guitars, Violins, & Things With Strings
String instruments help with upper body strength, flexibility, coordination, and fine motor skills. Some instruments, such as violins, can also improve posture. Like other musical instruments, string instruments also improve memory, self-discipline, attention span, and focus, in addition to boosting intellectual and creative development. From inexpensive and simple electronic violins and guitars for little tykes, to Paper Jamz guitars, lap harps, ukuleles, and inexpensive “starter” instruments for older children interested in lessons, you and your kids will be happily plucking away in no time.

Wind Instruments
From simple and inexpensive harmonicas and recorders to Bontempi’s array of inexpensive, color-coded wind instruments including saxes, trumpets, clarinets, and more, wind instruments enhance lung and diaphragm function, decrease respiratory ailments, improve hand and eye coordination, and improve finger dexterity. Want something fun and different for younger children? Go for Quercetti’s Saxoflute for a variety of build and play fun from this 16-piece interchangeable set.

Musical Games
Don’t neglect the benefit of musical games and board games for improving memory recognition, pitch recognition, and more! From old favorites like Simon to new additions like Nino Percussion Shake ‘N Play Memory Game and Spontuneous, musical games offer fun for the entire family.

Music Apps

And there’s many more out there… Just search ‘music education apps’!

The Gift of Music Itself

Playing music for your child, whether that means purchasing CDs, downloading individual songs, or simply streaming music, is important for introducing children of any age to the joys of music. Opt for a variety, from classical symphonies to folk, jazz, rock, and more. There are many groups out there that create music specifically for kids, and these can be great stocking stuffers.

Finally, if your child is a bit older, consider signing him or her up for music lessons. Private, one-on-one lessons with a great teacher and the instrument of your child’s choice can help foster a lifelong relationship with music.

Incorporate the joys of music into the life of your child. Making music a part of your daily world with musical toys and gifts will foster a love of music in your child that will last a lifetime. There is no better gift you can give!

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4 Painless Steps to Help You Learn Music Theory

5064195399_9f77ce9349_bSure, music theory is complex — but there’s no need to fear it! Here, Jamaica Plain, MA teacher Noaa R. shares four steps to get you started…

 

Many students tend to avoid studying music theory and harmony. This can stem from a fear of compromising one’s creativity with rules and numbers, a failure to connect concepts with application, or from feeling overwhelmed by the perceived volume of material to be learned. However, when you approach theory as an exploratory process that helps you grow, navigate your musical world, make creative choices faster, train your ears, and generate new ideas, it’s a total blast. Here are four steps to changing your perspective as you learn music theory.

1) Realize Why You’re Studying Theory

The Circle of Fifths, triads, intervals, modes with Greek names, and complicated sounding chords like C7(b9b13) can seem like a pointless jumble of terms and stock patterns to memorize — but the facts are:

  • Music theory is tools — it evolved as a way to explain, organize, and codify the felt experience of music. All these names correspond to textures or sonic events — which have special relationships to each other and provide you with a set of devices to be recognized in listening and used judiciously in composition and improvisation, just like rhetorical devices in writing or speech. When you understand what they are, what they sound like, and recognize the names for them, they’re at your disposal. You are thus freer to make music as opposed to groping blindly in the dark.
  • Yes, you’re studying patterns and devices that other people have used before. This means nothing – you will find your own voice regardless, using the same means to your own musical end. You didn’t invent a new language when you learned to speak, yet you express yourself fluently and uniquely using the same words, phrases, and syntax as other English speakers.

2) Get Curious

Make music theory a joyful exploration of new sounds. When you learn a new chord, scale, or progression, treat it like a strange and wonderful animal you are encountering for the first time.

This isn’t much of a stretch – say you are learning about minor 7th, major 7th, and dominant 7th chords. Play them on your instrument. What colors do they have? How do they differ? How do they make you feel? What is difference in the structure of these chord qualities that makes them so distinct? Do they remind you of sounds you’ve heard before?

Form a unique relationship with every sound through immersion and play — and I mean literal play. Mess around with these new musical building blocks. Create little grooves and ideas, and maybe you’ll even write a song. The goal is to create an experience connected with the concept — that is the key to retaining information, not rote memorization.

3) Make it Real

Bring concepts out of the intellectual ether into experiential reality immediately. The seven diatonic triads of the major scale should never be left as dots on a page. It’s important to be able to write and spell them, so that you can visualize and understand them. But they aren’t a math problem – they are seven textures relating to a tonal center with distinct relationships and near-infinite possibilities for creative combination. Not only that, the vast majority of popular western music uses just these seven chords.

Learn the triads on your instrument, then find them on another instrument (piano is a great tool for learning in this regard by virtue of its intuitive and linear organization). Sing them as well – often it takes changes of context and approach for something to sink in.

Mix and match different triads, one per measure, to create a four-bar progression. What sounded good? What didn’t? What grabbed your ear? Try writing a melody over it. Ask your teacher to help you analyze a tune you’ve always loved and compare it to your progression – you’ll be thrilled to recognize familiar patterns after a few of these analyses.

4) Stop Worrying

Music is vast. There’s a lot to memorize and keep track of. Understand that you can only process a certain amount at once, so work with bite-size chunks. Patiently trust the process, and you will find concepts become second nature over time. Keep in mind that you need only learn music theory as much as serves the fulfillment of your goals — whether you’re a singer-songwriter just looking to spice up the same old progressions or you’re interested in jazz improvisation. Find what’s relevant to you and don’t worry about the rest.

Theory only exists as an organized way for us to explore what is available, and to understand deeper what we’re already familiar with so that we can use it more intelligently and artistically. It’s there to serve you. So dive in and have fun!

NoaaR

Noaa R. teaches guitar, composition, ear training, and music theory in Jamaica Plain, MA.  He is currently working toward his Diploma in Professional Music from Berklee College of Music. Noaa has been teaching music as a private instructor since 2011. Learn more about Noaa R. here!

 

 

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