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

 

 

07Jan/16

How should parents be involved in their kid’s music education?

How to Help Your Kids Get the Most from Music Lessons

By Remus Badea, Executive Director, American Music Institute

As a parent, you are the first teacher of your children. Most parents are involved in their child’s studies to encourage them to do well in school. Showing your support for your child’s education provides great motivation for them to improve their school performances in the whole year.

There are many ways in which parents can help their child become successful in their music education, especially through their music lessons. Your involvement in helping your children learn music lesson should be in a positive and moderate way. This will help your child experience music as an enjoyable subject and not feel they are being force to study. It is essential that you let your children enjoy their music education.

Advice for Parents of Young Children

To help a young child to be ready in school and for their music class, you can spend time listening with them to some of their favorite music. You can have a collection of songs or nursery rhymes to help them both prepare for and enjoy music. To make it more interesting, you can sing songs together.

As your children become more active and you feel they need extra stimulation, you can look for a group music class. It is important that you see that this class is as much about social skills as it is about music. You make sure your kids mingle with other children in the same age group. You can meet the other parents too so you can check if these parents are happy with the teacher. Reassure your children that you will stay with them in their class, which will create a safe, comfortable learning environment for them.

parents music education

As parents, you should ensure that your child will learn by finding the most appropriate class for your child’s age. Look for a recommended and reputable school that offers great faculty and teaching. American Music Institute offers Suzuki violin and piano lessons, as well as group lessons. We generally recommend individual instrument lessons begin around the age of 4 or 5 years old.

Don’t expect that your kids will play an instrument right away. It is better to keep in your mind that your child needs to develop their motor skills to be successful. In choosing a music school, make sure that your child will not just take a music lesson but will also enjoy their time at the school. Once your child is enrolled in a class, support their music studies. There are teachers who allow parents to attend lessons, though not all do. However, do not distract the teacher or the student during the music lesson.

Once you are at home with your children, you can help them practice what they have learned. It is the responsibility of the parent to encourage their children to engage in consistent practice at home. Children need guidance from their parents and you will also ensure that you can monitor their progress. In practicing at home, keep in mind that you should provide them with a positive environment and not make regular practice a drudgery. It is the best way to ensure long term success.

The best idea is to create a musical culture at home. You can listen to music that both of you like; you can play your radio, download some music, or watch music videos on You Tube to expose young children to different musical styles and composers. Having interesting books about music around will help your kids to be better readers and learn more about music in their own time. If you keep a variety of sheet music in your home, it will provide them a better idea of the different kinds of music that they can aspire to learn to play.

How to Support Your Child’s Music Education (At Any Age)

Every parent should provide the support of their children to make them successful in learning music. However, even though you are always by their side to support them, you still need to ensure that the music teacher of your children has the right philosophy and style in teaching for your child. This is because every student differs in their learning style and the teacher needs to be able to adjust their lessons to fit a student’s learning style. The end goal should be that your children learn how to be a self-reliant musician. They should be able to enjoy and learn music to the fullest extent on their own as they grow old enough to direct their own development as musicians.

kids music lessons

Unfortunately, many of us can think back on a negative experience with music lessons. However, I believe music lessons can benefit every child when they are taught in a positive way. At American Music Institute, our philosophy is that music lessons can be challenging and fun. Wherever you live, be sure to find a music teacher who keeps your child engaged and happy as a learner.

Here’s how to ensure your child has a successful learning experience.

1. Keep them company until they are comfortable taking lessons alone.

2. Have them practice and learn music they enjoy.

3. If they really don’t seem ready, take them out of lessons for a few months.

4. If they really don’t work well with their initial teacher, try another one.

5. Don’t punish them when they don’t practice, encourage them to continue.

6. Don’t force your child to perform if they are not ready.

7. Remember that their music development is for their enjoyment first and foremost.

Between sports and other extracurriculars, your child’s schedule is likely full. Kids today are in more activities than ever. If you’re unsure about adding music lessons, remember the benefits that come with violin or piano lessons. Your child may not pursue a career in music, but she may have an easier time learning math, manage her studies, and working in teams.

What You Should Look for in a Music Teacher

Parents sometimes think that if their child is talented and take lessons with a good musician that their child will learn well. Developing a successful music lesson is a bigger challenge than you may realize.

Musical skill involves the most sophisticated muscle training to hit the right notes (technique), complex aural (listening) training to develop a good ear, a detailed understanding of the concepts, symbols and style of music (sometimes called music theory) and much more. This material must be covered while developing the student’s enthusiasm and love of music.
Many people do not realize that great performers are often not excellent teachers as they have little idea how to teach what they play. Anyone at all can offer music lessons without training. A great start with a good teacher will give your child a great start towards learning their instrument. If you have little or no musical training finding a good teacher can be difficult.

Music Teacher

 

 

 

 

 

Here are a few things to look for.

A. Look for a teacher with a warm, positive personality

Studies have shown that the most top performers began their studies with someone who was caring and made the experience fun. Once the student has fallen in love with the instrument and playing music, the teacher can safely encourage greater discipline in practicing and offer more rigorous critiques of performances. Don’t equate a caring personality with lower standards. Great do not force their students to achieve, rather they guide them to understand what top performance requires and inspire their students to seek to achieve it.

B. Look for a teacher with training in teaching

A music degree does not automatically ensure you a great teacher, but it does raise the odds they have studied teaching. Most music degree programs require some training in teaching. The best way to learn how to teach is to study it a great teacher. In most colleges, teachers will practice teaching music to students under the eye of an experienced music educator.

C. Make sure the teacher will have a clear lesson plan

A good instructor must keep track of students’ progress in many areas such as: learning new pieces and new skills, preparing for performances, plus becoming a well-rounded musician. To research a potential teacher thoroughly, ask them how they do their plans for each lesson. A good teacher should be able to give you a general idea of how your child’s lessons will progress.

How Prevent Your Child From Quitting Music Lessons

1. The first way to combat music lesson dropout is to treat music as important as learning sports and doing homework. After studies have shown that kids who study music score higher in math and reading, work better in teams, and even score higher on the SATs and go to college in higher numbers.

2. If your child is getting frustrated with music lessons, it may be that they don’t have the right tools or practice habits. In other words, they don’t know how to improve. Talk with their music teacher and with your child to figure what they need to make progress again.

3. Remember that music students who are necessarily naturally gifted can get a lot from music lessons and develop enough proficiency to play well. They just have to develop on a slower schedule. It is important to be patient. Kids develop at different speeds across a wide variety of skills.

4. Encourage your child to continue practicing over the summer just like you have them continue to work on their reading and athletics. Many music schools offer low-cost music camps to help keep kids motivated.

5. Seek out opportunities for your child to get performance experience.

This can be a great positive motivator for them to practice and develop their skills.

To be realistic, practicing a musical instrument has its ups and downs. Kids need to be encouraged to practice, but not so that it extinguishes their desire to learn. It’s a balancing act and every child responds to different kinds of motivation. However, I firmly believe that all children are capable of thriving with a musical education, and students will be grateful to their parents for not letting them quit.

Other Resources

The Music Parent’s Guide

Autism & Music: A Parent’s Guide

The Parent’s Music Guide

Remus Badea is Concertmaster of Southwest Symphony Orchestra, adjunct professor at Elmhurst College, and Executive Director of American Music Institute. He teaches violin, viola, cello, and piano.