Beethoven had this to say about learning the creative side of music:
“In order to become a capable composer one must have already learned harmony and counterpoint at the age of from seven to eleven years, so that when the fancy and emotions awake one shall know what to do according to the rules.”
There is something important here. It is the age at which to learn these things the grammar rules of music. Dorothy Sayers has still said it best, in her outline of the older method of education: Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric. The grammar rules of any subject are to be taught first. The student learns how to use the rules, and finally, the student learns how to defend the rules in creative activity.
Most music students today never get to learn counterpoint until they go to college. They may learn harmony, and a little about melodic composition. But are never drilled in the many facets of counterpoint.
Under the older view of learning, students learn the grammar rules of their subjects, music, language, math, etc. They now had the tools of learning to continue their own education.
When music students are given the tools of learning at a young age, by the time their minds starting racing with ideas, they have the ability to act on these ideas.
This is why I wrote “Ian Hodge’s Read, Write & Play Music.” It turns the clock back and adopts an older methodology with a better outcome for all.
In 1986 my wife, Jessie, and I began home schooling. It was more Jessie than it was me, since I was at work each day while she was home with the kids. But home schooling became a way of life for our family until 2006.
But there were some lessons we leaned along the way. One of these lessons was understanding the difference in the way some children learn. And it was a difficult lesson for us.
You see, our first two children lulled us into a false sense of security. Matthew, our oldest child, had been taught to read by his mother by the time he was four years old. He loved books. He loved reading. All we had to do was give him something to read and he’d be off with a new spurt of learning energy.
Rachel, his sister, was not much different. She, too learned to read by the age of four, and she too loved books.
But then came the challenge in the family. Peter was our third and quietest child. He loved to play with Lego, and could build these complex models without any visual aids by the time he was three. He too, learned to read by the age of four. And that’s where the similarities stopped.
You see, Pete had no great desire or urgency to read. The problem was not that he could not read, because he could read with the best of them. It was just that he did not like to read. And he still doesn’t. But it took us a few years to catch on to this. When at the end of the day we found he had finished none of his school work we initially thought he was lazy, rebellious, or just disinterested in learning. We were wrong on all counts.
What my wife eventually discovered was that if she sat with Pete and read his school work to him, he would then pass any tests with flying colors. In fact, his test scores were better than his older brother and sister. We had on our hands something we were unfamiliar with at that time: an auditory learner.
We had learned the hard way that some children like to learn by reading, while some like to learn by reading. There’s another group that like to learning by doing things.
Now, professional classroom teachers are often aware of this, which is why they mix the activities during the day. They are trying to cater for the different learning styles of the children in the class.
But as parents, we have a better choice. We don’t have classes of 20 or 25 children. We have just a few children that God has given us. And being parents, we know our children far better than any teacher ever will, provided we don’t neglect our parental duties.
So, if you’re having just a little frustration with your own children in the home, it may well be that there is some kind of conflict going on with their learning style and they way you as a parent are trying to teach them. This can happen even if you’re not home schooling.
Therefore, be considerate of the gifts God has given to your child, and try to adapt to their learning styles any lessons you have for them. Do not in any way compromise your standards of what you want them to do. But be flexible in your presentation and handling of the lessons that you give them from day to day.
Music has a powerful effect on people. So argues Andew Pudewa, from the Institute for Excellence in Writing. Andrew provides a creative writing program for students. It’s one of the best around.
But Andrew also plays violin and has a background in music education. A few years ago he put together a 2-CD lecture series entitled The Profound Effects of Music on Life.
In this series, Andrew illustrates how music affects the nervous system in young children, positively and negatively. He demonstrates with examples during the lecture.
Yes, music can have a negative effect. And to put the finishing touch to his lecture, he recalls the experiment by high school student David Merrill in 1997 that won David a science award.
The experiment involved mice and music, and exposing two groups of mice to music, 10 hours a day every day for a week. One group heard the music of Mozart; the other group, the music of acid rock group, Anthrax. A third group, the control group, had no music. The experiment involved allowing the mice to navigate a 10-minute maze, then retesting a week later. This went on for three weeks, so there were four tests or each group. The results were staggering.
But what was most staggering, was the failure of the first attempt at the experiment. The group of mice exposed to rock music became cannibals, and the experiment could only be completed by isolating each mice. They could not be put in a group.
For you can then find out that the control group cut their 10-minute maze down to about 5 minutes. The group listening to Mozart’s music on the fourth test cut over eight minutes off the time.
And the group of mice exposed to the acid rock group? How did they do? Guess. But if you didn’t guess 30 minutes, you got it wrong.
Have I got your attention ? Are you interested yet? You ought to be. If I were a benevolent dictator, I would make this resource compulsory listening for all parents.
But since I’m not a benevolent dictator, you can voluntarily buy your copy by clicking on this link. Do it NOW — PLEASE!
Listening to music will never be the same for you after you’ve listened to these lectures.
David Merrell’s results (in seconds):
|Control Group||Classical (Mozart)||Rock (Anthrax)|
Why do so many kids quit music early?
Over 50 years ago Rudolph Flesch pointed out that the loss of phonics in the schoolroom meant Johnny couldn’t read. Since then smart parents and teachers have insisted on a comprehensive program that teaches children the sounds of the letters first, then how to blend those sounds into words.
But there is more than that, because an integrated phonics program not only uses the sight and auditory senses to teach reading, but kinetic activity such as writing to reinforce what the students see and hear.
The result has been outstanding success for students who have been taught to read and write using a simple phonics methodology.
That same student who responded positively to the multi-sensory reading program, however, will quite often quit music in his teens. Why? For the same reason that kids used to give up on the three Rs: Some of the ‘Rs’ are missing. And in the case of music, two of the ‘Rs’ are missing: Reading and ‘Riting – especially the ‘Riting part.
It doesn’t. It really doesn’t take long to learn at all. And this problem, if you have it, may not be with the student: it could be with the teacher.
Hear me out on this one. I’m a piano teacher. My students got to high levels quickly. But it took me a long time to figure out I may be the problem, not the student.
Now I did have some help. My final piano teacher was Russian, born as his parents escaped Leninism in 1916. They made their way to Australia, a cultural shock for the family from the center of music and arts in Russia.
But I was introduced to the piano techniques that made the Russian School of Pianism great. It was intermingled with another school or pianism, of the famous Polish teacher Theodore Leschetizky, who also produced an array of talented and famous pianists. Perhaps the most famous was Ignace Paderewski, who eventually became Prime Minster of Poland. But not before he earned millions in his lifetime as a concert artist, giving most of it away. One three-month trip to the USA paid him what was then a large fortune in the 1890s – $300,000.
Among these “schools of pianism” there were some real differences both in style and performance. But they were all united on one thing: to practice piano and learn quickly you had to practice slowly.
Now this is not just an idea for musicians. Many sports people use this as a method to train muscular coordination. The ability to hit a tennis ball powerfully means you need to find, and know how to use in an instant, the “sweet spot” on the racquet. This requires co-ordination of hand, eye, and feet to position your body so that when you swing your arm, the racquet will connect with the ball at exactly the right time and place.
Musicians, of course, don’t hit balls. But a pianist needs to train his fingers and arms to apply pressure to a key at exactly the right time, for the precise amount of time, no more or no less – to create the desired musical effect. It takes him some time to develop the strength and independence of the fingers so that he can produce the sound he wants whenever he wants it.
Like the tennis player or golfer, the position of his body weight relative to the way his hands sit on the keyboard, is an important factor. So all these things are coming together at a performance – but no one, except the pianist, is going through the mental gymnastics of listening, preparing, reacting to the sounds already created to give continuity to the musical effect that is being created.
The violinist, on the other hand, does not press keys. His battle starts, first of all, with learning how to hold his left arm up for extended periods without getting stiff. Then his right arm is moving back and forward, up and down, sliding the bow, bouncing the bow, using the upper part, or the lower part, all to create a musical experience for the listener. And the challenge for him, is not to let the wrong muscles get in the way and destroy the smoothness of his bowing action. This is exactly the same challenge the golfer faces on the green: don’t let anything interfere with the smooth movement of the putter to guide – not hit — the ball into the hole.
It is muscular coordination that needs the slow practice. When practicing slowly the brain is better able to grasp, and the muscular system better able to remember, the demands being made upon it. Then, subconsciously, the muscles are able to recall these demands in a split second when the brain sends the signal, “do this” or “do that.”
Slow practice, in other words, speeds up the learning process for those requiring the coordination of brain and muscles – nearly everything.
Take a young piano student who has a problem section in the music. That problem can disappear in about three or four attempts if the student will slowly practice what is required. That memory then remains, and the problem usually disappears. Chronic problems take longer to fix, but the key is not to develop the problems in the first place.
Slow practice nearly always eliminates the development of problem areas. And a child can learn pieces quickly, commit them to memory, then concentrate on the development of hand, arm, and ear to perfect the performance.
So if your child is slow in learning, look at the way she is practicing the right way. You do not need the music teacher to tell your child “slow down”. You can instill this habit at home. And if successful, the teacher is going to be surprised at the ability of your child to learn quickly and accurately.
That’s all it takes — slow practice.
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There is an ongoing debate about music in churches — religious music. The debate centers around rock music and older, more traditional style of music found in the hymns of yesteryear. I have pointed out elsewhere that the trouble is there are no standards by which to make the decision. In language you have grammar and syntax rules that help you determine what is “good” literature. But in music, the older grammar and syntax rules have long gone. Hardly anyone knows what they are, and so the music debate is now about how I “feel” about music, or what I just happen to like or dislike and not about “rules” of grammar and syntax.
But here’s something I have not seen included in the discussion. It has nothing to do with music, but it does have something to do with acoustics.
I’m reading the book, Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns: How Pop Culture Rewrote the Hymnal. It’s a good read on the problem of religious music today, and offers some relevant suggestions.
But in my observation it is not the fact that Johnny can’t sing — it’s the fact that he doesn’t sing. Or if he does, he does not do it very well.