20Feb/17

Benefits of Music for Adults

By Kaitlin Fron, AMI Voice Teacher & Program Coordinator

We spend a lot of time evaluating the positive effects of musical study on children’s abilities to succeed in other academic subjects, but the benefits of making music a priority continue regardless of the age of the participant. We know that music aids with brain development, so it follows that continuous study or exposure would continue to support brain activity. The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America states that “[w]hen used appropriately, music can shift mood, manage stress-induced agitation, stimulate positive interactions, facilitate cognitive function and coordinate motor movements.” These benefits are significant and make a strong case for participating in musical activity even in adulthood.

Because musical activity engages multiple areas of the brain at once instead of one specific area, studying music trains the brain to improve connections between those areas. Brain involvement with music also changes with education, and a study from Bakin, Edline, and Weinberger demonstrates the importance of musical learning to brain response to specific tones and melodic contours. The study reveals that with more musical study and training, greater brain response is developed. Of course, this benefit comes regardless of age, and while early musical study is beneficial to brain development, continued or later musical study still results in increased brain activity.

Musical participation is a psychomotor skill, which also means that the coordination between complex thought and fine motor skills is developed by learning to make music whether with the voice or an instrument. Other physical benefits to musical study also include the ability to lower blood pressure through learning controlled breathing, a skill which is necessary to singing or playing brass and wind instruments. The concentration required to study music also provides a healthy outlet from the stress of a work or other obligations.

As the brain ages, many find themselves struggling with Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and music therapists have found that sufferers benefit from musical activity. Researcher Linda Maguire notes that “Musical aptitude and music appreciation are two of the last remaining abilities in patients with Alzheimer’s Disease.” By engaging in musical activity, sufferers continue to stimulate multiple areas of the brain while gaining confidence through ability. Dr. Aniruddh Patel explains the connection between musical study and the confidence that results from pattern recognition. This feeling of empowerment may significantly improve the outlook of a person struggling with Dementia who may otherwise feel powerless amidst all the changes which come with age. Because music elicits emotional response, familiar songs may even help patients to recall associated memories.

Though we generally consider education to be completed following either high school or university, choosing to study music as an adult carries significant benefits. For the aging adult, musical participation is a healthy way to stimulate the brain while maintaining an emotional connection to memory which may even help Dementia and Alzheimer’s patients to improve.

Sources:

file:///C:/Users/Kaitl/AppData/Local/Temp/music%20and%20the%20brain.pdf

http://search.proquest.com/openview/cefe14496362e3f06aeb3b1993d48460/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=35973

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/singing-boosts-brain-activity-in-alzheimer-s-patients-scientists-say-8933021.html

http://www.alzheimers.net/2014-07-21/why-music-boosts-brain-activity-in-dementia-patients/

https://www.chorusamerica.org/advocacy-research/singing-and-brain

30Jan/17

Vocal Tips for Little Ones

By Kaitlin Fron, AMI Voice Teacher & Program Coordinator

Vocal Tips for Little Ones 

If your child enjoys singing along with movies and the radio, you might wonder whether voice lessons are the next step and what you can expect from studying the technical elements of singing at a young age. Teachers have debated the subject intensely for years, and many agree that children will sing regardless, especially since shows like Annie, The Secret Garden, and Matilda are so often performed. In lessons, your child can expect to learn how to sing sustainably and how to learn new songs. When making the choice to pursue private lessons, you may have a few questions.

“Sing out, Louise!” What standards will my child be expected to meet?

 In a healthy voice lesson, your child will learn how to use his or her own voice just as it is. The voice is produced from a combination of muscles and cartilages that are still growing in children. In fact, the voice does not reach maturity until well into adulthood! Lessons teach children how to navigate the growth and changes which occur while being patient with themselves. Children may expect to learn new songs with the help of their teacher and to master a few basic techniques.

What techniques?

Breathing, Phonation, and Resonance

Singing begins with breathing. Your child will learn how to breathe deeply and will practice concentration. Though the vocal instrument is located in the throat, it is heard through resonance found in the face. Your child should not expect to feel a sore or tired throat after singing, and lessons are a great way to help children to avoid straining their voices. Teachers will help them to master using their breath and finding a space for tougher notes rather than reaching for them. They will also guide children to a natural phonation which relies on resonance rather than on excessive pressure.

Diction and Expressiveness

Singing words requires clear diction, or enunciation. Children will learn how to pronounce words clearly and efficiently, removing excessive effort which may hinder their speech or result in tension. They will also learn how to evaluate a character and his or her words in each song and how to express what they have discovered in the text. They will learn to use their breath to support their expressiveness, which will prevent “acting” from negatively impacting their singing.

What will my child gain from singing?

Aside from the ability to sing healthily and confidently, the complex physical and mental coordination required to learn and sing music will help your child to engage multiple sections of their brain which may improve their ability to connect other school subjects. Kenneth Phillips classifies singing as a psychomotor skill involving pitch perception and vocal coordination (Teaching Kids to Sing, p. 15). This connection is reflected well in the connection between breathing and acting. As children learn to connect breath with intention, they will learn how to use their breathing as a method for emotional control and healthy communication outside the classroom as well. Researcher Aniruddh Patel has discovered that singing benefits the connection between different parts of the brain and that language and prediction become more accessible through melodic learning. This means that your child may see improvements in language arts classes and may also become more confident due to being able to successfully recognize patterns and predict what will come next musically and linguistically.

Singing provides children with a fun, engaging way to develop their mental and physical coordination, focus, and communication. The physical engagement of singing offers a productive outlet for energy, while the mental focus and listening skills required helps children to refine their intellectual development. Ultimately, they’ll gain confidence and creativity, so that next sing-a-long children’s movie might be a good idea after all!

Resources:

https://www.chorusamerica.org/advocacy-research/singing-and-brain

Phillips, Kenneth H. Teaching Kids to Sing. New York: Schirmer Books, 1992.

22Jan/16

Classical Music Appreciation – 10 Works Everyone Should Know

What Are the Top Ten Classical Works That Everyone Should Know?

Nowadays, most people are so focused on listening to contemporary popular music to the point that they forget about classical music. Many people have not even heard the great classical pieces. This is a shame, as it is not called classical music for nothing. These works have stood the test of time. Their value has been already proven. If you are a music enthusiast, then you might have already heard the term: music appreciation. It is the process of learning what to listen for and how to understand what you are hearing in different types of music.

Top 10 must know classical works:

Bach has been one of the most popular composers in the history. You might have even heard his name mentioned by your music teacher. This piece has harmonies that are truly inventive. It provides a different feeling spiritually that makes us feel more peaceful. It was created for an unaccompanied cello and that makes it different from other classical pieces. It has a pattern that just flows smoothly.

Some people might say that this piece is boring but it has so many things to offer. Creating chamber music is not easy for each instrument plays a big role in making the entire piece a success. This amazing piece from Brahms offers a great tune that can get you off your seat.

This piece is just perfect as it is. It doesn’t even require any accompaniment. It offers a dramatic tune; when you hear it, you will remember certain moments in their life. The tune is meditative has a solemn feeling. This song is already very popular. If you still haven’t heard it, now the time to take interest in it.

This concerto is a favorite of musicians competing in musical competitions. Although there are tons of concertos out there, this is one that everyone should know about. It is tuneful, and at the same time, lush. It provides the soloists with opportunities to showcase their skills in playing, especially their finger work. This song is just so powerful and great. Moreover, the second movement has a beautiful slow theme.

This is popular Canadian classical music composed of set of solo piano pieces. Although the music is considered to be complex, it does not sound like that to the ear. It is pleasant to hear and has a playful melody.

Antonio Vivaldi wrote some great pieces in the Baroque period fitted for each season. It consists of programmatic movements showing different themes and representing scenes through every sound created. As you listen to it closely, you would be able to visualize different scenes representing each of the four seasons. It is just truly amazing. It will definitely help you realize the importance of music appreciation.

This symphony has a different style from the works of Vivaldi. It has a magical feel that will surely make you remember your childhood, the time when you were filled with hopes and dreams. It will also help you recall the life in the countryside with green grass, farm and fields.

This is one of the most popular works by Georges Bizet that even those who give little importance to music appreciation know about. It is full of remarkable memories as it was also used in operas. The music is just so brilliant and it is also one of the greatest pieces for theatre too. The music sounds so beautiful from start to finish although the ending of the famous opera is a tragedy.

Have you ever watched the film “2001: A Space Odyssey”? If you have, then you might know this piece. As it is so fun to hear, it is probably also fun to play. A novel having the same name became its inspiration. The piece has pauses and sections, in which Strauss has name for them from specific chapters of the book. Therefore, if you truly wanted to understand it, then you could consider reading the novel. One word that could explain this piece is the word EPIC, which is what all music should be.

Music appreciation is very important for one to be able to appreciate the theme of this piece, which is modern American life. This 30-minute music for ballet is performed using 13 instruments. Not only does it provide an image of wheat fields but also that of a modern city. The entire piece is divided into 8 sections in which each includes scenes depicting different feelings and emotions including passion and wonder. The music shifts from very slow to fast to moderate to quite fast to still faster to very slowly to calm and then moderate again.

Music appreciation can focus on music from anywhere in the world. In the U.S., music appreciation often focuses on classical music and jazz. It offers the enthusiast a historical context to explain why people of a certain era liked the music that they did. We recommend you dive in listen to as much different music as possible. Start with the pieces listed here and follow your ear to the music attracts you. And while we do think there is much to appreciate in classical music, jazz, rock, popular, and world music have much to offer a listener too.

Resources

The Fifty Greatest Pieces of Classical Music

Top 200 Classical Pieces

The Secret to Classical Music: It’s Just Music

How to Listen to Classical Music and Enjoy It