Teaching Strategies For Growth Mindset

What is the most important factor in a student? Many people would say it’s talent, or effort, or persistence, or luck or some combination of these.

Behind all of this is something that is more important – the proper mindset. Recent research (Blackwell, Trzesniewski, & Dweck, 2007) has shown that there are two different mindsets among students:
1) intelligence as a fixed, static trait or you got what you got
2) intelligence is a changeable, flowing trait, in other words:  you can learn whatever you put focus and effort to

Most of my music students do have a growth mindset, but may need some extra encouragement.   To do this I need to use a specific way of communicating.

The Dangers of Praise and How To Do It Right

Researchers have discovered that if you just praise the intelligence of the child, there are negative consequences.  So just being positive and saying “Good job!” is actually detrimental and has a backlash because given a new challenge, the child would rather not participate (quit) in order to “save face” and live up to the expected standard.  Rather if the child was praised for their effort, the next harder challenge was met with more effort.

Communicating Learning Goals

Almost daily I have a student who complains
“That’s too hard! I want to just stay on the same song!”

Here’s some things I say and you can too in your classroom, studio or with your own children.  Though I’ve made these specific to music, you can apply a variation of these to any subject.

  • Learning music is like playing a video game. Once you achieved the last challenge, we’re on to the next level.
  • You’re not supposed to know this already, this is brand new.

High Expectations For Forward Motion

  • I KNOW that you can do this, that’s why I’m showing you this.
  • This will be challenging, but I’ve seen you do amazing work before.
  • Remember how hard _____ piece was? And now you can play it so well. This is like that one only better.

Struggling Even With Effort

  • You are not there…YET (emphasis on the yet)
  • If you’re feeling overwhelmed, just remind yourself that you can’t do it…YET.
  • Let’s take a break and come back to this tomorrow.
  • I admire your persistence.
  • I appreciate your effort and focus on this.
  • I love how you never gave up on that last piece. Let’s do it here too.

Struggling But May Need Help With Strategy

  • Let’s work on just the one spot giving you trouble
  • What part is giving you trouble? Let’s just look at that.
  • How about we make a plan to learn this piece? You can do section A today and then section B tomorrow and then back to A…

By setting the proper belief system in place at an early age, we can guide our children to future success in music, and in life.

For more information, read this excellent article from Prinicipal Leadership, a magazine aimed at school principals.

For a free download on Growth Mindset Framing. You’ll have to register but it’s free and you can download a pdf.

Park Slope Music Lessons
114 Garfield Place BrooklynNY11215 USA 
 • 347-788-0101
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Spring Recital 2014 is on June 7 at 2pm

 

Our Spring Recital will be June 7, 2014 at 2pm

June 7 at 2pm, Park Slope Library

I’m looking forward to our upcoming Spring Music Recital on June 7 at 2pm.  It will be in our usual location, the auditorium of the Park Slope branch of the Brooklyn Public Library.

We have a great program of diverse music from folk classics to Suzuki standards to pop songs from Katy Perry, Imagine Dragons, One Republic, jazz standards in the style of Frank Sinatra and film and Broadway soundtracks all played by kids ages 5 to 13.

The show is free and open to the public.   You can see previous recital videos here.

Also, if you haven’t already signed up your child for summer lessons, I have some openings for our short summer session which runs 4 weeks in July from the 7th to 31st.   More info.

I’m also offering music lessons via internet (Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts) over the summer and into the Fall too.  This may be a good opportunity to continue practicing whilst at Grandma’s house.

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Online Private Music Lessons via Skype or FaceTime or Google Hangouts

You can now book a private lesson with me via SKYPE or FACETIME or GOOGLE HANGOUTS from anywhere in the world.

I can work with you and/or your child on piano, guitar, ukulele, songwriting, or music production via the comfort of your own home.

What you will need:

  • your instrument
  • an internet connection – preferably high speed Broadband
  • a webcam with your computer or a smartphone (iPhone or Android) or a tablet (iPhone or Kindle Fire or Galaxy or Surface)

When you register, please let me know what instrument you are registering for and if you have had any experience at all and the age of the student. After booking I’ll contact you via email to schedule a time. Please note, I am in New York City time zone so will not give lessons at 3am EST. :-) See below.


How long?
Which Instrument?




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Music lessons for Summer 2014


Summer Music lessons for kids in Park Slope Brooklyn Summer is usually the best opportunity for new students to join my private music studio.  Once you are on my roster, if the fit is good for teacher, student and parents, I will make every effort to accommodate you on the school year schedule.  I am incredibly grateful to have so many students who stay with me for years. This summer,  I will be offering private and limited group lessons beginning July 7. Music lessons:

  • Monday through Thursday 10am to 5:30pm.
  • July 7 through 31, 2014
  • Lesson are  $57 per half hour with an additional materials fee of $20 for the summer.

You can sign up for once per week or even 4 times per week for a super accelerated learning experience. The summer is a time for renewal, recharging and having some fun along with learning.  With that in mind, I’ve designed a few summer fun-tastic ways to learn basics of music, ukulele, guitar, piano or songwriting.  These music lessons are usually private, but I can accommodate small groups.  See below.

  • For ages 4 to 5, I highly recommend starting with piano and basic music theory in a weekly 30 minute private lesson.
  • For ages 6-7, especially if you have had some prior experience with music instruction, we can work on guitar, ukulele, recorder, piano, songwriting etc.
  • For ages 8 and up, we can usually move much quicker and move into pop songs, Broadway, blues and basic jazz.
  • Group discounts are available – if you know of other children the same age and experience level, I can accommodate up to 4 children for group lessons.

If you are interested, you can register here.  I will discuss specific scheduling with you.

You can now take  virtual lessons with me using Skype or FaceTime or Google Hangouts.

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Fabulous Music Recital Success!

We had our 10th recital hosted by the Brooklyn Public Library and it was a resounding success!  Such a wonderful diversity of music, talent and focus.  All my students pulled it together and presented their best.

Winter Recital, Jan 25, 2014

Winter Recital, Jan 25, 2014

I’ve posted all the videos on our YouTube Channel.

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Roar, by Katy Perry, easy guitar chords

Easy sheet music for Roar, by Katy Perry

Hand drawn sheet music is more fun to read – notice the stick notation

This is very popular with  my guitar students.  It’s funny, I have recently acquired a bunch of young girl rockers who have switched or added guitar to their musical instrument repertoire and this is one of those songs that resonates with everyone.

It seems the new style of songwriting is to use the same harmonic structure, meaning the chords, over and over again.  The only difference between the verses and choruses are in melody, rhythm or the buildup in the production.

I use stick notation with all my students and it really helps them understand rhythms separate from pitch. Here’s a good overview of how I present rhythm using stick notation.

Enjoy the hand drawn sheet music!  Notice the CAPO is on the 3rd fret if you want to stay in the same key as the original recording.

Here’s a video of Melina performing at our Winter Recital on January 25, 2014.

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Some Kids Have A Secret Advantage

Ava wrote her own music!

Ava wrote her own music!

All parents want the best for their child and after-school is an opportunity for extra enrichment beyond the classroom.

Yesterday, The Atlantic published an article,  After-School Activities Make Educational Inequality Even Worse.   The author, Hilary Levey Friedman, interviewed and followed 95 middle-class families over 16 months who were involved in soccer, dance and competitive chess.   She identifies 5 skills  she believes separates middle/upper class children from less fortunate children and which she calls Competitive Kid Capital.   There’s some overlap here with Angela Lee Duckworth’s concept of Grit which I discussed previously.  Though Friedman didn’t profile music students, these all overlay very well with music instruction and recitals.

1 – The Importance of Winning – In music there is not necessarily winning and losing, but if you didn’t get the right notes, or you didn’t perform as well as you did at home, then, there’s a sense of a loss.  All of my students are pretty hard graders on themselves when asked, “How did you do on that piece?”

2 – Learning from Loss - this is resiliency and happens everyday you practice at your instrument.  You’re going to make mistakes, but what matters is what you do next.

3 – Time Management – Music is a time based language- you need to keep the beat  - events happen over time.  Having good rhythm and timing to correctly and effective communicate a beautiful piece of music is one aspect but so is the management of practice time  over weeks and months for a big recital.  Will you be prepared?  This is life!

4- Adaptability – you need to go with the flow – some days you’ll feel different and you’ll play the music different because of that.  But also making small corrections everyday on technical issues is a way of adapting.

5 – Grace Under Pressure -  performing in front of a roomful of strangers can be a very intimidating experience.   The more you do it, the easier it gets.  I’ve seen some of my students blossom over the years and these skills  will be useful in the classroom, the job, the board room, anywhere.  I wrote this article Why Music Recitals Are Like Life Skills 101 a few years ago.

See the full article at the Atlantic.

And here’s another article that caught my eye.

Last weekend’s New York Times had a brief article about the Long Term Benefits of Music Instruction.

A new study reports that older adults who took lessons at a young age can process the sounds of speech faster than those who did not.

“It didn’t matter what instrument you played, it just mattered that you played,” said Nina Kraus, a neuroscientist at Northwestern University and an author of the study, which appears in The Journal of Neuroscience.

What’s incredible is that this is 30-40 years later!  And these people may never have continued on an instrument after their childhood music lessons.

See the full story here.

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Is Music Education The Key To Success in Life?

Is Music The Key To Success?

Is Music The Key To Success?

This past Sunday, there was a NY Times Article on the importance of music education in everyone’s life.  I feel like it was written specifically for music teachers!  The author interviewed some of the top performers in numerous  and diverse industries and has found a surprising number had deep musical training from Condoleeza Rice to Allan Greenspan to Paula Zhan to James Wolfensohn to Steven Spielberg to Woody Allen and Paul Allen.

“I’ve always believed the reason I’ve gotten ahead is by outworking other people,” he says. It’s a skill learned by “playing that solo one more time, working on that one little section one more time,” and it translates into “working on something over and over again, or double-checking or triple-checking.” He adds, “There’s nothing like music to teach you that eventually if you work hard enough, it does get better. You see the results.” – NBC White House Correspondent Chuck Todd

See the full article, Is Music The Key To Success at NYTimes.com

 

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Why Every Child Should Learn Music With Tips, Strategies and Resources

We had a lovely Parents Curriculum Meeting this morning. It was wonderful to see so many of you.  Here’s a summary of what we covered.

The Benefits of Music Lessons

My philosophy of teaching music is to impart an enjoyment, appreciation and ability to create and perform music while having fun.

I don’t expect all my students to become professional musicians, but I do expect them to gain life-long skills such as

  • goal-setting
  • problem solving
  • conceptualization
  • organization
  • memorization
  • categorization
  • structuralization
  • delayed gratification
  • self-discipline
  • persistence
  • tenacity
  • the last 3 can be combined to be called grit
  • and  learning the process of how to learn just about anything.

Structure Of A Typical Lesson

  • Repertoire – a fancy word for a group of memorized pieces at a performance level. Having a memorized repertoire means you can play anywhere at anytime. It also starts to give rise to conceptual skills such as seeing/hearing structure, order and experiencing how feeling can be transmitted to others through music. It’s very empowering! These pieces are usually taught by ear, visual memory and my color system. They are usually a bit harder to read from traditional music notation but within the student’s abilities to perform. Sometimes I’ll use video to help communicate tricky pieces especially for students whose parents do not read music.
  • Reading – Learning to read music opens a door to the thousand year tradition of written music. Just like reading books gives access to timeless ideas, reading music gives access to timeless music. I use several different method books, none which are perfect where we are learning to see what music sounds like.
  • Theory/Technique – I use many games to help understand the very abstract concepts of music like harmony and how the symbols of music are visualized. These take a long time but through weekly intervallic training , we accomplish great things.

Tips For Parents of Students:  How To Guarantee Success At Home

  • Organized – by having all the learning materials organized in a binder or some kind of system where they can easily find their notes in chronological order enables students to learn quicker and to learn valuable skills of being organized.
  • Daily Practice – repeated practice (of anything) at daily interval activates a higher retention rate for learning. For younger ages 5 to 10 minutes may be enough, but as soon as they are able, we should be aiming to bring that up to 20 or 30 minutes or more per day. The complexity of the music requires more time.   A kitchen timer is highly recommended.  For young boys, using a metronome and/or duets with an adult, older student or  the video or  recording may force them to play at a normal human tempo!  We also discussed how to get your child to practice the older repertoire and many loved the dice game I created.  See below.
    Dice Game: Number all the songs in the repertoire. Roll the dice. The number that comes up corresponds to one of the pieces. Play that piece. Roll again and play the next one, etc.   All of a sudden they’re willing to play old songs they never wanted to play before!
  • Listening is Programming Your Child – just as we all watch what our children eat, media consumption can be monitored and “programmed.” I like to play my son classical piano music in the morning at breakfast as it calms and focuses him, but is also giving him the knowledge of pieces that he is working on or will be soon.  Listening to only Top 40 Hit radio is like a diet of soda and potato chips!   We need to expose our children to the world’s greatest music from Baroque to Classical, Blues To Jazz, Folk To Country, Rock To Electronica to Merengue to Cumbia…the list goes on.  I wrote this article and this one, about a recommended order of listening to music for the youngest children where I talk about starting with simple singable folk music   and then adding  early classical music.  As with visual art,  children start with primary colors and then learn to mix more complex ones later. Structures in early classical music are simple to understand and lend well to learning how to play.
  • Listening is programming your child

    Watch your musical diet.

  • Going To See Live Music – we live in a city of riches for live music. Summer concerts in the park, Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall and the Met all have programs for children. And, you can view almost anything on YouTube though you may want to screen them in advance as some of the related video content is inappropriate for children.

Resources For Experiencing Music

There has been an explosion in ways to access music anywhere and anytime. Here’s a few of my favorites.

  • WQXR – Classical radio station now owned and operated by WNYC (yes I’m a member!)  Fabulous repertoire of all the hits of classical music, some modern pieces and even film soundtracks. Love it.    You’ll start to learn the composer names, performers and even coming concert dates in the area.  Available online, on FM radio 105.9 and as an app for smartphones.
  • YouTube – back in the day, after radio,  MTV was where kids found about new music.  Today it seems YouTube is where kids go automatically to find new music. As I mentioned above, you may want to screen first for appropriateness depending on age of your child.
  • Suzuki Method CDs – all my students start with the Suzuki Book 1 and the CDs. These are folk songs arranged for piano and are perfect for any age. Volume 2 and on are excellent classical piano repertoire and lovely dinner party listening too.
  • Spotify – A free (w/ads) or paid ($5 or 10/month) internet music streaming library. It seems to have something like 90% of all recorded music.   It’s available as a website or an app.  Fantastic learning, research tool. I’ve made some playlists for my students and will be sharing with you shortly.  Here’s an article with a playlist for great songs for a roadtrip.
  • Pandora – an internet radio station that monitors what you like and delivers more like it. You type in an artist or song and it creates a “radio station” that plays that music for you. Free with ads or you can subscribe for $4/month.  Available as a website, app, or even built into some smart TVs.
  • iTunes Radio – Apple’s new radio streaming service that is similar to Pandora. Just launched this October 2013 (Free with ads or pay $25/year.)  Available on Apple devices and PCs.

Technology to Help Create Music

Recording technology has taken massive leaps in the last 10 years. Here’s a few we talked about.
- GarageBand – Apple’s truly-amazing, easy to use multi-track recording software with virtual instruments and it’s less than $5! For iPad, iPhone and Mac (this one is more like $30)

- LogicPro – this is what I use to create film scores, songs, and most of my music production.  This is professional music software and it only costs $200.  That’s an incredible difference from when I was a kid!

Notation Software to Write Music on Staff

Professional music engravers use Finale or Sibelius, both have student options:

  • Sibelius First – I use Sibelius and love it.   I find it much more intuitive to learn and use than Finale.  It’s used by many, many professional musicians.  This student simplified version is about $99 and works on Mac, Windows.
  • Finale Songwriter - I hear that most professional music engravers use Finale, perhaps because it is more powerful, but with that power comes complexity.  This is their simplified version for songwriters.  Not sure if it is that much easier.  It is cheaper though at around $50.
  • Finale Notepad – FREE!  Well FREE is a pretty good price so you can check it out and decide for yourself.
  • Musescore  - free open source - I have no experience with this but looks pretty good.
  • Noteflight – an online software – you get up to 10 for free and then after that you need to sign up for a subscription.  It sounds pretty good – though I never tried it.
  • Of course you can also just get a nice music notebook like this one from Moleskine.  Use pencil so you can erase!

New Ideas

We had some ideas suggested at the meeting.

  • Longer lessons –  45 minutes  for older students – may need to wait until next year to implement as the schedule is tight!
  • More playlists of music programmed by Andrew – coming soon!
  • Piano Buddies/Mentors – organized piano mentor sessions with older students. Older students teaching younger ones as in Montessori Schools or Summerbridge (now called Breakthrough Collaborative) Very positively received idea and looking into how to implement.

 

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Music Lessons Make For Grittier Kids

the path to success in life

2 Types of Students

Some of my music students will naturally wrestle with a new challenge.  They’ll go over and over a specific passage until they  have a break-through.   Sometimes I have to bite my tongue as they doggedly work out the solution in front of me.  Sweet victory!  These kids have tenacity a.k.a., grit!

And then there’s the other kind.  They sit placidly and wait for the answers to be handed to them.  If I present something new, they almost always says, “I don’t understand, it’s too hard!” and then give up immediately.    When I do give them the answer, they’ll do it once and then say I got it, but then want to move on to something “new.”    As I tell all my students, “repetition is the mother of skill,” –  Tony Robbins.

The ones who have the tenacity or “grit” as they now call it, have been shown to be the ones who become better students, not only in music but also in almost every aspect of life. There have been studies showing that later success in life is better predicted by emotional qualities such as “grit” than academic scores.

It seems that if we as parents and educators can instill more “grittiness” in our kids, then they’ll be better prepared for the future.

A path to grittiness

So how does Music Lessons develop this quality called grit?

Any repeated practice can be used for building grit.  Whether it’s music or sports or juggling.

Isn’t it a bit unnerving that doctors call what they do, “practice?” – George Carlin

It’s about having the long view in mind.  It’s the delayed gratification, the working towards a goal and the reward of reaching a high level skill.

The most time-consuming part of my job as a private music teacher is in the selection of  music and  individualized lessons in which I determine the order of presenting new conceptual ideas to each student.   By paying close attention to where each student is in their technical and conceptual development as a musician, I can then place the next “stepping stone” just at the right moment.   To far ahead, and I risk losing them – even the tenacious ones.  To close, and they’ll complain that it’s too easy or even boring.

By showing each student a path, individualized to their current state, I can guide them forward on this long road to success and life!

Update October 3, 2013

Further Reading

 

“You have to immerse yourself in a discipline before you create in that discipline. It is built on a foundation of learning the discipline, which is what your music teacher was requiring of you.”

 

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Fun with Music Games For Learning Theory – Summer group classes

Summer Music Lessons 2013.

Summer2013-ad-175

 

 

 

 

 

I still have some availability for my Fun With Music Games for Learning Theory classes.  There is no prior experience necessary (for the beginner class) and it’s guaranteed to make music learning fun and memorable.

You know kids love games!  They instantly perk up at the slightest mention.  I so wish my music teachers knew about making games out of music theory.  It’s the fastest, funnest and most enjoyable way to learn some very abstract concepts.

In my private music lessons, I always use a game for the theory stuff.  Usually it’s just me and your child.

This summer, I’ve dedicated 2 afternoons for Music Games days - Tuesdays  for beginners and Thursdays for advanced.  This will let us enjoy the fun of a group playing the games – and learning at the same time. These classes are open to my current students as well as new ones who may have never even played an instrument.  No matter, it will be fun for all.

 

Music Theory can be fun when it's a game!

These girls are “thinking in thirds!”

What Are Music Games?

  • Here’s the core of what we’ll be learning through the fun and magic of games.  Advanced students will touch on these but go further faster.
  • Music alphabet – 7 letters – sequencing backwards, forwards, up, down and then skipping in intervals.  These girls are “thinking in thirds.”
  • Line and space notes – Learning the differences
  • Rhythm with Blue Jello words and symbols
  • Dictation – using numbers for pitches, developing listening skills
  • Solfege with Curwen hand signs – then Melodic Dictation and Melodic Bingo using solfege.
  • Grand staff – treble and bass clefs, pitch names, intervals
  • chords
  • And lots more!

I still have a few openings for both Beginner and Advanced.  Please note these are small groups of 6 students, so it will be fun for all!

Learning Rhythm using Stick Notation and Hand Signs. Plus really fun to say words!

 

Mark Your Calendars

Here’s the dates:

Tuesday Beginners – 4pm to 5:15pm ($45/each student/class)

July 9, 16, 23, 30 and Aug 6

Thursday Advanced – 4pm to 5:15pm ($45/each student/class)

July 11, 18, 25 and Aug 1, 8

Please contact me know if you are interested as soon as possible.

 

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Why Memorizing Music Is So Important

By Andrew Ingkavet

With all of my students, I stress the importance of memorizing their pieces, especially for performance at a recital. Here’s some of the reasons why.

Repetition is the Mother of Skill

How many times did Tiger Woods hit a golf ball before ever entering a competition? Apparently he was already golfing at age 2 when he made an appearance on the Merv Griffin show with his Dad. He turned professional at age 21 after winning many competitions along the way. That’s 19 years and probably 30,000 to 40,000 hours of practice! In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers,  he discusses the theory that it takes an applied 10,000 hours of practice to mastery in any field. No wonder Tiger Woods is the greatest golfer that ever lived!  He’s simply played 3 or 4 times much as anyone else before he even turned pro!

Tiger Woods golfer
Now, I’m not demanding 8 hour practice days for my students, but five minutes the day before the lesson is just not going to cut it. It’s unfair to the student who is going to sound awful and not enjoy the wonderful process and sense of accomplishment of learning a song to a masterful level.

Technique

As we use our muscles to achieve the production of sound, we need to train them to move in specific ways. Fluidity can only be achieved by repetition. By consciously practicing the repeated motions at the same time being mindful of proper alignment of back, wrists, hands, we can create smooth, fluid motions that create beautiful sounds without repetitive stress injuries.

Practicing small bits at a slow speed can produce incredible, exponential results. When pianist Glenn Gould burst onto the scene as a young man, his flawless technique stunned the world, as did his ingenious interpretations of Bach.

Pattern Recipes

The bits of music phrases teach re-usable pieces of the fabric of music. Just like a recipe book or a code pattern that can be re-used in many projects, future songs will surely employ similar melodic, harmonic and rhythmic ideas. Music performance, composing and listening becomes easier as we progress. This is in fact the basic concept of object orient programming for computers. By designing a library of re-usable components, programmers can quickly put together new projects by cobbling together pre-build elements. Learning a later song is easier because the old one had similar patterns. And then, creating variations is now an option.

Artistic Expression

Spencer TracyThe famous actor Spencer Tracy was once quoted,

“Know your lines…and don’t bump into the furniture.”

You could say the same of music.  Know the notes.

How can you make the music your own without knowing it at a deep subconscious level.
When I was briefly an actor, I took a wonderful class in
the Meisner technique. The basic exercise was called the Repetition technique. It consisted of 2 or more actors on a bare stage with minimum set props. It was improvisatory in that each would only repeat what the other said until there was a natural impulse to say something else. What was amazing was that the inane conversation became full or emotion and life immediately as the words were not hindering the emotion. It’s the same thing in music. But, we need to know our parts. Of course, in jazz, improvisation is the raison d’etre, but there is still an agreed-upon structure.
We need to get to the very heart of emotion in the music, and the only way is to memorize, internalize, and interpret as our own. To know the music fully.

Tell A Story

To make your music tell a story, you need to have a physical comfort level with it. You can’t NOT know your parts. Otherwise it’s like the actor who doesn’t know his lines…you don’t believe them.

Instrumental Music is extremely abstract. Pop and folk songs with lyrics provide a narrative focus. But pure instrumental music can benefit in having some kind of narrative in that it can bring a piece to life. Make up a storyline for your piece! Sometimes this is relatively easy as the music is dramatic and narrative by nature.   Disney realized how Dukas’ Sorceror’s Apprentice was perfect in that it told the story.  Take a look.

I’ve been astounded by the difference in performance by some of my youngest students when they add a storyline to their piece. What’s even more amazing is that 6 year stories are all pretty much the same! But the music sparkles!

Repertoire

Having a mind full of pieces to perform at a moment’s notice is a wonderful thing. It’s what makes one feel like a truly accomplished musician. And, you never know when your Aunt Harriet is going to pop over with her friends and ask you to play “something sweet.”

How Memory Works

So how does memory work? Scientists still know only a fraction of how the brain works, but we’re learning more everyday. There is still so much research still to be done. 

So far, it seems that there are some generally agreed-upon concepts.

Encoding – getting the information into your memory. Of course, the information needs to be right from the start. Garbage in does equal garbage out.

Storage – There’s short term and long term. It seems we are similar to computers in that we have temporary space for short term and commonly used information. If we don’t use it, we lose it, unless we consciously store it in an organized way.

Retrieval- Getting the right information out when you want it is possibly the trickiest. Many scientist believe that the human mind never forgets anything, it’s just difficult to retrieve on command. But, repeated retrieval places the keys to a specific memory in a prominent location. So if you want to remember where you put your keys, try saying it aloud when you put them down. And, practicing your piece on your instrument at repeated intervals is like oiling the doors to that memory closet.

How To Memorize Music

In a famous study done by George Miller at Princeton University they discovered that humans can memorize up to 7 discreet bits of information, plus or minus 2. But chunking this into groups greatly increases the amount that could be stored and retrieved easily. We can apply this to music memorization.

Chunking It Down

To start memorizing, I suggest with a small chunk or part, perhaps even as little as 3 to 4 notes. The younger the student, the less notes. As they learn, we can go to the next chunk, and after mastering and memorizing that, we group those two chunks together. By continuing to add to the memory in small groups, and then synthesizing those into a larger whole, the entire piece can be memorized quickly so that a piece with several pages can be played from memory easily.
Some common breakpoints would be first measure, then second measure, then group them together. Then do the next 2 measures that way before you group together the entire first stave. Then A section can be memorized as contrasted to B section, etc.

Listening

An extremely effective way of learning a new piece is by listening to an existing recording. This is, of course, the bedrock of the Suzuki program of music instruction.

At higher levels, this may influence the styling of the performance, but that’s why we listen to great performances! Better to mimic the masters. You can also record yourself playing the piece slowly to listen to it over and over again.

Writing as a Memory Aid

Hand-written music by Mozart

Hand-written music by Mozart

Actors learning lines often write and re-write their lines without punctuation, like a long run on sentence. Why no punctation? By learning the words as raw material, they can add their own punctation depending on the emotion required for the scene. We can do the same for music, though the punctuation is usually dictated by the composer in terms of tempo, dynamics and accents, etc. By copying the music to staff paper, another method of input has been created both visual, kinesthetic and even aural through mental memory of the sounds. As a composer, I’ve gained invaluable details and nuances by just copying pieces of music. The physical act of copying does something that internalizes into the mind and body. It’s why the great painters all learned by copying the masters at the Louvre.

Blind Memory

Another technique to memorize is by relying on the auditory, and kinesthetic only. By blindfolding, or closing one’s eyes, or even turning out the lights, the musician can practice

Ray Charles

Ray Charles

without relying on the visual and play by touch and ear. This will also make the student realize quickly if they are not committing to a fingering pattern as they will be unable to play it blind. And, some of the best musicians in the world were literally blind.

Visualization

I’ve heard of stories where prisoners of war without access to their instruments practice completely in their mind, visualizing the experience completely, hearing it in their mind’s ear and seeing themselves in the mind’s eye performing their piece perfectly. These people return from their isolation playing better than before! I’ve told a few of my students about this and you can see in this video, my student Mitra is actually visualizing herself right before she performs onstage. Wonderful!

My son Alejandro has been working on a difficult piece by Bach and he recently told me that every night before he goes to sleep, he visualizes himself performing this piece. Wow! I don’t even recall telling him to do this!

An Odyssey, A Memory Palace

There’s a lot of wonder at how some of our ancestors could remember stories to pass on to the next generation. One was was through the use of rhythm and sound in the form of poetry, a kind of word music. By linking the sounds with the imagery in the stories, whole long passages could be told and memorized. By singing the melodies of the piece you are trying to memorize, you are using these very techniques and internalizing the music. Glenn Gould would sing all his parts incessantly to the point where he never stopped singing even when performing in public or recording his piano pieces.

There’s also the technique called the Memory Palace, where using the memory of a physical place you know intimately such as your own home, you could “store” information in specific locations. So, to remember things in a specific order, you could then mentally walk through your palace and retrieve the information. I found this book where it taught me all the names of every play by Shakespeare in the proper order, and lo and behold, it works! Now I should really do this for something more useful like song lyrics as I’m terrible at remembering them.

The Benefits of Memorization

Now the greatest thing is that these memorization and learning skills are applicable and transferrable to the rest of your life, forever! You can use them to learn anything like languages, careers, work stuff, school, research, anything! You are basically learning to operate your mind. How to store information, keep it fresh, retrieve it when you need it and then use it to combine, build, mix, remix and synthesize all you want. And to think you got all this from memorizing your little recital piece!

 

 

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Winter 2013 Music Recital Videos

Piano Lessons For Kids in Park Slope, Brooklyn

Winter 2013 Music Recital

We had a lovely Winter Recital on Saturday at the Park Slope Library here in Brooklyn, NY.  Though there was a scheduling mix-up and we almost had to cancel, it all turned out well in the end.  Thanks much to all at the Brooklyn Public Library especially Leane and John who worked it out.

I’ve posted a playlist of all the videos on our YouTube channel, but here’s a few below.

Amalia:

Alejandro:

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Photos from our first Music Salon

Music Salon at Minovi House

Sing along with us!

I had this idea to have more public performances for my students which was well received by all the parents.  This afternoon, we had our first Music Salon, hosted by Maziar & Michelle, and it went wonderfully!  It was a casual festive event with wine and snacks and a roaring fire with a great 13 foot Christmas tree.  Just lovely.   And we had a sing-along of some Christmas favorites.  The best part was that some of my shyest and quietest students  got up to play several times and all did a great job.

Here’s some photos from the event.  And many many thanks to Maziar and Michelle for being such gracious hosts.

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Music Practice As A Discipine For Life

I read this great article about how music lessons became a great discipline for success in life.  What really resonated with me was the fact that none of the writer’s 4 daughters were natural “prodigies” and had to struggle with daily music practice.  I too did not just fall into playing piano and guitar and alto saxophone.  But once I found my favorite teacher(s) and repertoire it started to flow easier.

Flash-forward 20 years from that first Suzuki lesson, and three of my four kids have put away their violins in favor of other pursuits. But those early lessons stuck. All four have had the courage to embrace long-term, large-scale projects outside the realm of their formal academic training. All of them credit their Suzuki days for ingraining in them the habit of patient practice that has seen them through the long, slow development of mastery.

Sure, talent matters. Talent is the difference between good art and great art, between proficiency and virtuosity. But talent alone is rarely enough to get by.

See the whole article here at Philly.com

 

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Teaching Kids How To Read Music Using Solfège, Hand Signs & Kinesthetic Learning

Teaching young kids to read music is quite a challenge.  I approach through a long process of micro-steps.  It’s the reverse of peeling an onion.  It’s a layering technique of building up from tiny kernels of understanding, expanding outwards.

The first lessons are always performance focused – get them excited about playing a song!  It’s fun and within reach to play a song in 5 minutes!  That is so awesome!

Then over the course of many lessons, we explore basic concepts of music theory through a series of games.  One of these “games” is learning solfeggio (Italian pronunciation), also known as solfège (French pronunciation).  This is the system of pitches with words that was created in the eleventh century by a Benedictine monk, Guido de Arezzo.

To make it easier, I always look for ways to engage other learning modalities besides visual or aural.  In this case, an Englishman by the name of John Curwen did this work in the 1800s by creating a system of hand signs to go with the solfège system.   This engages the brain to have another way of remembering these pitches.  Kids love it and it certainly is fun!

Another great educator (and composer) the Hungarian Zoltan Kodàly took these hand signs and made it easier by associating a height with each sign to correlate the rising of the pitch with each syllable.

In my lessons, I teach my students using 2 hands to make it even easier as it balances both left brain and right brain.  Plus it’s easier and more fun!  Did I mention that fun is important?

I created a printout for my students that features…them(!) – to help remember these.

Learning Solfege with Curwen Hand Signs

Solfege is fun!

 

Hopefully we’ll all be singing and signing at our next recital.

Here’s a video from another teacher (who also produces wonderful educational tools which I use and heartily recommend.)

After internalizing these pitches and then connecting them with notes on the staff, reading music becomes connected with the aural, visual and kinesthetic.  It has become much easier to move into any standard method book after a few weeks of this.

 

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How to Play London Bridge on the Piano

I’ve started making videos of songs I’m teaching my students as so many of them are visual learners and have the technology to view this at home.  This video is not meant to be a step by step instruction but a reinforcement/memory aid for after the lesson when practicing at home.

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The Everlasting Positive Effects of Music Lessons

It seems every year there’s a new study that confirms the positive benefits of music lessons in early childhood.  This one has some great findings:

From the NY Times Well Blog:

By PERRI KLASS, M.D.

Joyce Hesselberth

When children learn to play a musical instrument, they strengthen a range of auditory skills. Recent studies suggest that these benefits extend all through life, at least for those who continue to be engaged with music.

But a study published last month is the first to show that music lessons in childhood may lead to changes in the brain that persist years after the lessons stop.

Researchers at Northwestern University recorded the auditory brainstem responses of college students — that is to say, their electrical brain waves — in response to complex sounds. The group of students who reported musical training in childhood had more robust responses — their brains were better able to pick out essential elements, like pitch, in the complex sounds when they were tested. And this was true even if the lessons had ended years ago.

Indeed, scientists are puzzling out the connections between musical training in childhood and language-based learning — for instance, reading. Learning to play an instrument may confer some unexpected benefits, recent studies suggest.

We aren’t talking here about the “Mozart effect,” the claim that listening to classical music can improve people’s performance on tests. Instead, these are studies of the effects of active engagement and discipline. This kind of musical training improves the brain’s ability to discern the components of sound — the pitch, the timing and the timbre.

“To learn to read, you need to have good working memory, the ability to disambiguate speech sounds, make sound-to-meaning connections,” said Professor Nina Kraus, director of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University. “Each one of these things really seems to be strengthened with active engagement in playing a musical instrument.”

Skill in appreciating the subtle qualities of sound, even against a complicated and noisy background, turns out to be important not just for a child learning to understand speech and written language, but also for an elderly person struggling with hearing loss.

In a study of those who do keep playing, published this summer, researchers found that as musicians age, they experience the same decline in peripheral hearing, the functioning of the nerves in their ears, as nonmusicians. But older musicians preserve the brain functions, the central auditory processing skills that can help you understand speech against the background of a noisy environment.

“We often refer to the ‘cocktail party’ problem — or imagine going to a restaurant where a lot of people are talking,” said Dr. Claude Alain, assistant director of the Rotman Research Institute in Toronto and one of the authors of the study. “The older adults who are musically trained perform better on speech in noise tests — it involves the brain rather than the peripheral hearing system.”

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, are approaching the soundscape from a different point of view, studying the genetics of absolute, or perfect, pitch, that ability to identify any tone. Dr. Jane Gitschier, a professor of medicine and pediatrics who directs the study there, and her colleagues are trying to tease out both the genetics and the effects of early training.

“The immediate question we’ve been trying to get to is what are the variants in people’s genomes that could predispose an individual to have absolute pitch,” she said. “The hypothesis, further, is that those variants will then manifest as absolute pitch with the input of early musical training.”

Indeed, almost everyone who qualifies as having truly absolute pitch turns out to have had musical training in childhood (you can take the test and volunteer for the study at http://perfectpitch.ucsf.edu/study/).

Alexandra Parbery-Clark, a doctoral candidate in Dr. Kraus’s lab and one of the authors of a paper published this year on auditory working memory and music, was originally trained as a concert pianist. Her desire to go back to graduate school and study the brain, she told me, grew out of teaching at a French school for musically talented children, and observing the ways that musical training affected other kinds of learning.

“If you get a kid who is maybe 3 or 4 years old and you’re teaching them to attend, they’re not only working on their auditory skills but also working on their attention skills and their memory skills — which can translate into scholastic learning,” she said.

Now Ms. Parbery-Clark and her colleagues can look at recordings of the brain’s electrical detection of sounds, and they can see the musically trained brains producing different — and stronger — responses. “Now I have more proof, tangible proof, music is really doing something,” she told me. “One of my lab mates can look at the computer and say, ‘Oh, you’re recording from a musician!’ ”

Many of the researchers in this area are themselves musicians interested in the plasticity of the brain and the effects of musical education on brain waves, which mirror the stimulus sounds. “This is a response that actually reflects the acoustic elements of sound that we know carry meaning,” Professor Kraus said.

There’s a fascination — and even a certain heady delight — in learning what the brain can do, and in drawing out the many effects of the combination of stimulation, application, practice and auditory exercise that musical education provides. But the researchers all caution that there is no one best way to apply these findings.

Different instruments, different teaching methods, different regimens — families need to find what appeals to the individual child and what works for the family, since a big piece of this should be about pleasure and mastery. Children should enjoy themselves, and their lessons. Parents need to care about music, not slot it in as a therapeutic tool.

“We want music to be recognized for what it can be in a person’s life, not necessarily, ‘Oh, we want you to have better cognitive skills, so we’re going to put you in music,’ ” Ms. Parbery-Clark said. “Music is great, music is fantastic, music is social — let them enjoy it for what it really is.”

 

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What Music Should My Child Be Listening To?

A Playlist for Young Music Students – or anyone who appreciates a wide eclectic listening palette.

I hope you are having a super summer and getting some much needed recharging.
As you know, listening to quality music is one of the most important parts of being a music student. Hearing comes before sight as well as our ability to talk.  Music is a language and the more your child listens to a wide variety of quality music, the wider your child’s view of the world. With that in mind, I wanted to let you know of an amazing resource called Spotify.  If you didn’t already know, this a free software app/website that allows you to listen to about 90% of all recorded music for free - http://www.spotify.com.  It’s like an internet radio station/library.

This is an amazing resource for teachers, students and fans.  There are a few commercials, but you can pay for a premium version without commercials – which is how the musicians and composers get paid by the way.  The best part of Spotify is the social aspect in that you can easily share songs and playlists with friends…and my students!

I’ve made an Essential Listening Playlist for my students.
It covers folk, jazz, blues, rock, bluegrass, country, film soundtracks, Colombian rock including one vallenato and some classical.  It’s quite eclectic, and is chosen for quality of music, composition, styles and appropriate lyric content.  You will never hear this on commercial radio – no Justin Beiber here!  Once you subscribe to this list, you’ll receive updates as I add them, so in effect, I’ll be your DJ.

Essential Listening for Music Students

An eclectic mix of music by Andrew Ingkavet

There’s a ton of tracks here -so make sure you click through to the full list.

Here’s the link to my Essential Listening for Students:
http://open.spotify.com/user/andrewingkavet/playlist/3svXAAcxEcOrgc5V2HRSgJ

So set up your family computer, iPod, iPhone or smartphone with Spotify and enjoy!

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Summer 2012 Music Lessons still available

If you are interested in piano, guitar, strumstick, ukelele, voice, songwriting and music theory lessons this summer, there are still slots available.  The summer lesson schedule runs 6 weeks from July 9 through August 16 Monday through Thursdays.  There are morning and afternoon sessions.  Lessons are $60 each or $330 for the full 6 weeks.

Contact me if you are interested.

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