Why You Should Never Underestimate the Power of Music

MusicThere are many different articles on the benefits of music education out there but we recently found one that had such a strong impact on us, we had to share it with all of you. Here at TakeLessons, we always speak about the power of music and have our own personal accounts on how music has helped us individually, but we found this story truly amazing. Thanks to Michael Shasberger, Adams Professor of Music and Worship, for producing this article with an inspiring story about the medical miracles of music therapy and the importance of music education on the development and socialization of human beings.

The following excerpt was taken from Westmont Magazine in an article titled “Better Minds Through Music” by Michael Shasberger.  You can read the entire article by clicking on the links following this excerpt.

In 2007, one of our violin students nearly died in a car accident and lay in a coma for several weeks. Doctors told the family there was little hope of recovery. He did regain consciousness, however, and while he had limited speech, he couldn’t form cogent thoughts or recognize simple objects. Case workers predicted months or years of therapy and doubted he’d recover his intellectual capabilities.

His violin professor visited him in the midst of these assessments. At the time, the student was doing tests that determined he couldn’t recognize or name simple objects such as a spoon. Then Dr. Phil Ficsor took out his violin and put it in the student’s hand. Perplexed, the student was unable to name the instrument and said he didn’t know what to do with it. Dr. Ficsor put the bow in his other hand and encouraged him to try. Moments later he was playing music from memory that he’d studied a few months earlier. Two months later he was back in school playing drums in the Chapel Band and violin in the orchestra and taking a full academic load. Music played a seemingly miraculous role in a recovery that exceeded the doctor’s wildest imagination. But it wasn’t miraculous. It was the result of violin studies this young man began at the age of 6. The musical resources of both his brain hemispheres were so strongly developed and linked that they could pull together when linguistic skills, which operate in only one lobe, couldn’t. His parents’ investment in musical studies —and the resources committed to his high school orchestra —made the difference. What happened to this student vividly illustrates the value of music education.

Wow! To read the entire article, visit http://blogs.westmont.edu/westmont_magazine/?p=1554

A New Way to Support Music Education

gearpipeorg logo

In a world of pointless status updates (“ahhh, cake”) and spammy get rich quick schemes (“learn about THIS teeth whitening secret!”), Twitter can actually be used for actual networking. It’s true. In fact, about a month ago, we were lucky to meet Jeremy Brieske, founder of gearpipe.org via Twitter. In a tweet, Jeremy proposed that “music education needs it’s own Twitter hashtag… #MusicEd” and we happily followed suit and started communicating back and forth.

Through communication and research, we learned that gearpipe.org’s mission is to “mobilize musicians and music lovers to donate to music education charities, thereby supporting and giving back to a new generation of musicians.”  As a music lessons provider, we strongly support this mission and wanted to give Jeremy props for creating such an awesome site with such a meaningful purpose.

Each month, gearpipe.org teams up with a musical instrument retailer and a musical education charity and donates a percentage of sales from gearpipe.org users to that month’s charity. They work with their retail partners to ensure the process is easy for the users and that all proceeds are donated to the correct charity.

This month, the featured charity is DonorsChoose.org and the retail partner is American Musical Supply. September’s charity was Little Kids Rock and the retail partner was Musician’s Friend.

GearPipe Screen Shot

You can find lots of other neat things on the site as well including Jeremy’s bio and a blog & podcast page which recently featured TakeLessons CEO Steven Cox (shameless plug).

Be sure to check out our music site of the week, gearpipe.org, to see what they are all about. And if you know of someone looking to purchase musical instruments or accessories, direct them there for their purchase so they can give back to music education while stocking on supplies.

The Art of Scat Singing

Shoo-bee-do-whap doo-wah…bee bop ba baah…

No, we have not lost all ability to converse here at TakeLessons, we are trying out scat singing — and it’s tough! Check out this article by one of our Berkeley voice teachers, Richard K., and see if you can whip up a scat solo the next time you hear your favorite song…

Have you ever hear a band playing a familiar Rock & Roll or jazz standard and then the vocalist, instead of singing the right words, started singing started singing a bunch of nonsense phrases like “da ba sheh-bop doo-wah” or “Doo-bee-bah-dip shwee-aah”?  Chances are you just heard scat singing.  And if you listen carefully, you might find it to be a real treat.

Scat singing is NOT what a vocalist does when they can’t remember the words to the song.  It is a singer’s act of creative expression; the time when he or she gets to perform a solo just like the instrumentalists do.  And just like instrumentalists, there are skills a scat singer must acquire.

So how does a novice go about learning to scat sing?  Many singers are terrified of scat—that vast unknown territory where you have to (or get to) make up your own melodies, phrases, or rhythmic licks.  Some would rather stick to the safety of the memorized lyrics and melody of a song.  But there is real freedom and excitement in creating your own melodic phrases, and great joy when your audience claps or roars in enjoyment of what you have created.

Learning to scat comes from getting a “feeling” for the music, so many folks start with the blues.  If you’ve ever listened to a song, and had the melody spark an alternative musical idea in your mind that would sound great out loud, you’ve started the process of learning to scat.  Or, if you hear another melody that fits into the one that you’re listening to and you try singing it, that too is scatting.

If nothing else, the way to start learning about scat singing is to listen to some great scat artists. Try to learn their solos and phrasing, try to capture their timing and emulate the tonal qualities they utilize.  Imitate them when they sound like a bell, or like a horn, or like they are growling or groaning.  Also, listen to your favorite instrumental players and learn their solos.  Listen to the solo repeatedly until you memorize it and can sing along while they are playing it.  Try to make your voice sound like an instrument—whether it is a horn, a guitar, a bass, drums or even a piano, if you can!

As with any singing technique, you’ll need to commit some serious practice time to learn and master the skill.  For additional help, sign up for singing lessons with a teacher who is familiar with scatting – the individual attention and that extra ear will definitely help you along your way. Find a voice teacher in your area and book lessons today!

You might also like…
Find Your Voice as a Singer: 4 Tips That Work
How to Build Confidence On Stage
Using Scales to Improve Vocal Range and More


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Power of the Pentatonic Scale

One of our teachers, Drina B., sent us an email with a link to this video from the 2009 World Science Festival to share with all of you.

The video clip is from the “Notes & Neurons: In Search of the Common Chorus” event at the 2009 World Science Festival. It shows singer Bobby McFerrin (of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” fame) showing the audience the power of the pentatonic scale by getting them to respond musically to his actions. What is really unbelievable is that the audience sings notes that he has not even described to them yet. It really shows us how music truly is a universal language.

Thanks for the clip, Drina!

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