Sandy Lundberg

The Stories We Tell

January 26th, 2016 by

music mentality

According to Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW, in chapter seven of her book Rising Strong, we are hard-wired to tell stories to explain the world around us. By “stories,” she means our perceptions of ourselves and others. This inclination is so strong that our body actually releases cortisol and oxytocin when we come up with a satisfactory story to explain a situation. Unfortunately, most of our stories are constructed without all of the facts, especially since we cannot read other people’s minds or know all their history. Our stories also reflect all of our own past experiences and the stories we have created around them.

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Posted in Performing, Practicing, Teaching Tips

creating arrangements1

As a child, I heard people play or sing songs with five or more verses—every verse the same dirge-like tempo, same key, same inflections… The intent of the songs deserved better. I wanted to arrange songs to reflect the message and engage the listener. Now I help my students create arrangements as well.

Start Simply

A very young student might play/sing only one note differently. It’s a start! Perhaps a vocal student has a two-verse song. She goes through the melody twice and ends. Ask her if she can think of a way to change the ending to have more impact. If she can’t think of anything, give an example and have her try it.

Play a repeated passage two ways: once identically and once with a change. Ask which version held his interest, or would keep an audience engaged.

Students singing together might start singing harmony by splitting to a third only on the final note. Starting simply might mean simply making them aware.

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Posted in Composing & Arranging, Performing

Reversing the learning process

There is a common presumption among music students that learning a piece of music is processed in this order:

1.  The mind tries to understand what’s going on through analysis, reading, listening to the teacher.
2.  The hands are told by the brain what to do so they can practice and learn their job.
3.  The ears serve as audience and judge to see how it comes out.

More and more, I have come to realize that this presumption only serves to frustrate students and slow them down.  For example, some students have trouble being asked to play a note if they do not understand why or how it fits into what they’re working on.  Others might go over a phrase of music several times successfully, and then look up and say that they don’t know how to play it.  A student may play several notes of a musical phrase and have their fingers poised correctly for the next note, but feel they can’t play it because they don’t “know” what comes next. Read more…

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Posted in Music & Technology, Performing, Practicing, Teaching Tips

Leila Viss

How will you play it forward?

December 14th, 2015 by

 

Two weeks ago, my student Addison entered my studio and declared, “I wrote a song for Paris!”

A little puzzled by what he meant, I probed further and learned that he improvised a piece on the piano based on his feelings about the terrorist attacks in Paris and posted it on his YouTube channel. It was Addison’s way of processing the tragedy, paying tribute to the victims, communicating his sorrow and as I thought about it more, this was Addison’s way to give what he could: he wanted to play it forward.

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Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music & Technology, Music News, Performing, Press, Professional Development, Teaching Tips

“Sonatinas, Scary Songs, and S’More.” Just the fall theme to carry out my goals for students.

I wanted to avoid the crunch of pre-Christmas activities for once. But an earlier recital meant I had a month less to help them prepare. How could I help them shine? How could I motivate the third-year students hanging on the fringes? How could I involve the earliest beginners?

Sonatinas for levels two and up are available (here’s one book). But I found none for my first year students. Some weren’t even reading notes yet.

So—I wrote them! A couple had two movements, but most had three.

I asked questions to discover their likes, hobbies and activities. And I wrote custom-made sonatinas for my beginners.

For Soccer Sonatina I used only six notes. This was for my youngest little one. He conquered “Dribbling” and “Passing Drill.”

For Sonatina Minecraft, I listened to Minecraft’s music. Then I wrote in a similar style. My student thrilled to play “Moving Boxes” and “Oh, Share the Night” and “Find the Path.” One student enjoys mythology. For her I wrote “Flight of Pegasus,” “The Loss of Persephone,” and “Puckish Mischief.” There were also Zoonatina, Puppy Sonatina and Canine vs. Feline Sonatina, among others. I even wrote sonatinas for my beginning guitar students. For Ballet Sonatina I read up on it first. Then I wrote “Allegro,” and “Pas de Valse.” My young man was excited to realize “En L’Aire” made a sound picture of leaping and landing lightly. One student wrote her own piece for the recital.

What about the title “Sonatinas, Scary Songs, and S’More?” Halloween songs are easy to find for all levels. The “S’More” part included Christmas songs and general-themed pieces. It also included non-messy s’more treats later at the reception.

I’ve never had students more motivated. They couldn’t wait to share “their” pieces. As a bonus, the sonatina theme can grow along with their musical skills.

The down-side?

It’s one week later. Now they wonder, “When is our Christmas recital?”

Do you write songs or arrangements for your students? If not, give it a try. Consider the techniques each one is perfecting at the moment. Give it a fun title. I’m sure MTH blog readers would love to hear about it!

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Posted in Composing & Arranging, Performing, Promoting Your Studio

Learning, Playing and Teaching Music by Intention

What truly distinguishes music that feels warm and human from music that seems cold and computer-like?  Intention.  We can teach expression in music nearly from day one, by thinking of the intention of the music we play.

When a computer plays music from a MIDI file, it plays the correct pitch and note value of each note at the correct time.  A musician may play that same music with relatively correct pitch, note value, and timing, because there is an intention to lean in one direction or another.  In some music software, computer programmers have added a “humanize” feature, which simply randomizes the starting time of a note very slightly.  The programmers imagine that the difference between computers and humans is perfection vs imperfection.  They don’t realize, or maybe just can’t possibly program, the real difference:  intention.

A musician (except on an instrument such as the piano where there is no pitch control) will play a pitch that sounds best within the context.  For example, Read more…

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Posted in Performing, Practicing, Teaching Tips

Put Your Records OnI remember, as a child, spending many an hour with my record player and LPs (long play vinyl records) in my bedroom. For me, half the pleasure of listening to the music was reading the sleeve notes which often gave up a wealth of fascinating information about the artist, composer, sometimes the instruments used, the recording personnel and the studio. And then there was the cover art which was a marvel in itself.

Of all the music that I listened to, I can’t forget an old Burl Ives record. One of the songs was called “I Know an Old Lady.” Apparently he didn’t “know why she swallowed a fly, perhaps she’ll die!” I played that album over and over.

As I grew older, I began to realise that listening to an old man singing folk songs was definitely not cool and that if you were to be esteemed in your peer group, you had to be listening to Read more…

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Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music & Technology, Music History & Facts, Performing, Professional Development, Teaching Tips

11537580_10207381344310689_7169988254069117155_o

This past weekend marked a major milestone in my use of my favorite device, the iPad. I played piano at my niece’s wedding and read all the music scores from my iPad with the help of an app called forScore and turned the pages with my PageFlip Cicada Bluetooth Page Turner Pedal. Ahhh…a match made in heaven!

This decision was due to the fact that the happy couple requested Jon Schmidt’s “Waterfall” as a recessional. As there wouldn’t be time for me to memorize the piece and because I dislike depending on someone else to manage the tricky page turns, I determined this tech-savvy combo was the logical choice. Read more…

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Posted in Composing & Arranging, Music & Technology, Performing, Product Reviews

tractor and trailer

Now I must explain from the outset that I have absolutely no farming experience whatsoever! Completely zilch!

But I do know that a trailer will go nowhere without a tractor to guide it!

So how can we help young Jenny conquer that awkward phrase in her song?

How can we help old Mary Williams to master the art of rubato?

How can little Jonny play that scale with flair?

Enthusiasm breeds enthusiasm

The answer is simple – us! It all starts with Read more…

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Posted in Performing, Practicing, Professional Development, Teaching Tips

Robin Steinweg

Music for Life

May 28th, 2015 by

A Master Class Series by Robin Steinweg

Music for Life

Music for Life

My second Music for Life Master Class—a success.

I started this series with plans to invite senior musicians. I’ll expand it to include musicians of all ages. Music for Life could end up defining my studio.

A master class series like this can enhance and promote your studio as well as inspire and bless your students. (Be sure to schedule it on your MTH calendar, and have reminders sent automatically!)

As students arrived, I directed them to the dining room for cheese, crackers, lemonade and sweet tea. Things go better with an after-school snack, don’t you think?  Snacks 5-20-15

Char Monette came as our featured local musician and piano teacher. I invited students and parents/grandparents to attend. We had good attendance in spite of busy May schedules.

Char shared musical moments and wisdom for about twenty minutes.

At age 8 her family moved to Japan when her dad was called up to fight in the Korean War. They couldn’t have a piano because he was only a lieutenant. But her classmate’s dad had a higher rank, and owned a piano. She walked home from school with Edward every day and practiced half an hour. Her teacher spoke no English, and she no Japanese. Music was their common language. She practiced very hard to earn a pat on the shoulder, and avoid mistakes which elicited a “No-no-no-no!” or worse, a rap on the knuckles with a pencil.

She began to teach in 1977 when another musician in town told her she must. This is good for us to remember! We can encourage musical gifts in others.

Ava, Amy Jorgenson, Sam, Char Monette, Bethie              Char Monette speaks to my students

Char said:

“Music is a gift from God. To think that your fingers can move on the keys, and music comes out… that is a gift from God.”

“I don’t often sit and listen to music. I would rather make music.”

I asked, “Char, what has music meant to you throughout your life?”

She responded, “You know, I don’t really think about it. I breathe, but I don’t think about that either. Breathing is pretty important. Music is just like that.”

She played “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” from her John Thompson Third Grade Level book.

Char's book, 1938 copyright

My students played for her. Some played their own compositions or their own arrangements of pieces. Some played my arrangements. They all gave a gift of music back to Char to thank her for coming to show them Music for Life!

You might like to read about my first guest in this series: professional drummer, vocalist and pianist Martha Nelson: Music Is for Life    …and here are a few of my students…

Sarah Wruck plays her own Key to My Heart     Sam plays Purple People Eater

Leanna plays Phantom of the Opera Dane plays In the Hall of the Mtn King

Chris plays Theme from Titanic   Ava plays Big Brass Band

Malea Niesen

 

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Posted in Music History & Facts, Performing, Practicing, Professional Development, Promoting Your Studio