Music Teacher's Helper Blog

There is an ongoing problem about the way we approach to tools or instruments today, which makes us focus more on how to use them rather than understanding how they work.

Some may say that it’s not necessary to know how an instrument works, or how it was made, however the same could be said about music in general. You could say someone is very good at playing, but doesn’t know a thing about scales, notes, and music reading. The point is that, this can stay this way  but there would be more control and freedom for creativity if there is also the knowledge to support the practice. The same goes to the instruments themselves, wouldn’t it be better if you knew how a guitar was made, or how the piano produces the sound it does, or knowing about the difference between one type of strings or another, it even goes as far as knowing about sound waves and materials.

How is sound produced?

There are a lot of vibrating causes, these include vocal cords and strings with tension, but to make vibration there must be a certain amount of tension in the vibrating body. These different vibrations can also be amplified in very different ways which involve different sizes of bodies, mics and more.

Sound can be quite malleable, and to understand its malleability it’s important to know at least a few of the sources.

Strings, percussion and wind

There are obvious differences between each of the instruments that can be found, but first, it’s important to make a first division in these three main categories: strings, percussion and wind.

Strings

These are instruments that sound due to the tension of strings mostly made of nylon and steel. As the vibration area becomes smaller the pitch gets higher, and more space means lower pitch.

This category is comprised of guitars, basses, violins, violas, cellos, harps, and many more.

Percussion

Percussion is all about “hitting” musical notes, this means that they are simple instruments which sound based on size and in many cases tension of leather.

These instruments range from barrels to drum sets.

Wind

These trigger sound with air, more specifically vibrating columns of air. These instruments are played by blowing which then makes the column of air vibrate, depending on its size the pitch is higher or lower, and it gets amplified by the tube.

Wind instruments are

Tuning an instrument

Tuning an instrument is an essential part of playing, not only is it necessary to maintain the right notes, but it gives more freedom as to the sound that we want to make. For example many guitarists use the drop d tuning, which is mainly used for power chords, hard rock, metal; it gives a heavier deep sound but also more possibilities with easy chords.

One of the most beautiful things for many before an orchestra is about to play is when everyone is tuning their instruments at the same time, for some it may be a disaster, but others hear many different sounds slowly falling into a place where great music can be achieved, it’s as if everyone in the room is synchronizing both in terms of sound and mind to deliver an experience.

Computer

Through experiencing music in the digital age, knowing how to manipulate sound to a certain degree it’s almost a requirement these days, and a computer is part of music composition as an instrument, it’s part of production, and a very integral part of the whole musical process. That’s why knowing at least how sound works digitally could help the overall knowledge in music.

There is just something important about getting to know a little bit more about the instruments we use, something beyond understanding how it works and fix it when it goes bad, it’s about getting the whole experience as a musician and learning every detail there is to learn.

 

 

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It’s common sense that music is something that is heard, listened, it goes through our ears, we are able to register sound and that way we can experience music, however there is a very important visual part of music, some are also a part of common sense or logic, others form part of aspects that aren’t very explored and could bring a lot to what music is to the world.

First of all, most people are generally more visually driven, this makes every experience begin with sight, and shortly after sounds. This is how classical music interpreters approach their art, they begin reading their sheets and then make the sounds through their instruments. Music academies are very visual in general due to the fact that there is so much emphasis on reading and writing music.

There is also a thing with beginners that is a very common and instinctively thing to do, which is looking exactly at what you’re doing, which is something that does not happen while singing, in singing you hear and you feel, playing and instrument, beginners see and hear, which is not a bad thing at all, it just happens. The thing is that as a beginner musician progresses, they no longer feel the need to watch every move every single time, while it works as support, it is no longer needed.

Visual Sounds

There is also a case that cannot be ignored, which is disabilities, this can change the way music is perceived as a whole, and if a person is deaf, you may think that, that person has no way to experience music but that is not true. A deaf person can still read and write music, and it’s not weird to feel music, when we go to a concert or we are in a party our body feels the vibrations of the rhythm, and this responds to another sense.

There is another way a deaf person can experience music, and while it’s not very common, it does happen, and this is to experience sounds, visually, this can be a bit strange to some but according to… amber Galloway Gallego this can be achieved.

She believes that music can still be expressed without actually hearing and criticizes many translators that just cue a sign that means “music” and just stand there while the sound of music is there, when you could actually do so much more.

This is not only a good effort to help disabled people experience music in a visual way, it is also a reminder of how complex and rich can music be.

While visual experiences can be a very good complement of the sounds themselves, such as going to a concert and seeing all the lights, fires, smoke, and breathtaking effects, music videos published along side the music to help tell a story, or even album covers; the visual part of music can also be the experience itself whether it is through music composition and reading or as a tool to interpret sounds and what the musician is trying to express.

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There is a big difference between teaching children and teaching adults, this changes the dynamic of the class whether  it is online or in person. There is a reason why some people prefer to work with children and why others prefer to have a more mature class, and it’s because the experience is almost completely different. It could be very helpful to think about these differences and how it should affect the approach from the teachers side.

While it’s impossible to be perfectly accurate, a range of ages and categories could definitely help organize the way we approach different types of groups.

Very Young Children (from 4 to 7)

At this age the most important factor is to have their attention with something fun, and through this, give little doses of knowledge. This applies to every area of education, however with music, it tends to be a little more dynamic friendly. Music can be very fun without any problems at all

Children (8 to 12)

This is when discipline starts to be a very important thing to focus on, because it’s very easy for children around this age to run wild and find distractions, it’s not as simple as making it fun for them, it’s also a matter of keeping them interested. At this age real preferences and interests start to come out, they begin to test the waters and guide themselves with their taste in music, sports, games, or any other activity.

Because of this the students will become varied, and with different orientations, but without much discipline or disposition to be in a class and learn. This is the time for questions,

Teenagers (13 to 17)

At this point bigger words are said, bigger meanings are found, tougher music is played and understood, and there is a growing sense of determination towards learning, in this case, practice music in order to achieve their personal goal as musicians.

This is also the beginning of their lives being more independent, making more decisions and exploring different parts of their lives, trying new things. This will show in a class room or in an online class, as students will be eager to apply the things they learn into their own ideas.

Young adults (18 to 26)

These are the students that are closer to have university type of experience or probably with a regular job, clear aspirations and a sense of responsibility. For some, this is the ideal moment to start learning music in an academic sort of way, because everything they learn will be taken with more attention and maturity than to say an 8 year old. This does not mean that children shouldn’t learn, it just means that the overall experience may be more complete if have the experience and discipline for it.

Adults (27 and more)

They can range from a very passionate musician that didn’t start very young but nonetheless aspires to do great things with music, to an older person that always wanted to learn about music and takes it as a hobby. Still, both types are the kind of people that can almost be equals to the teachers in terms of life experience, this doesn’t mean the student can question the teacher, it means that in terms of communication they share a common ground through experience.

These are just some characteristics of eras in a person’s life that can be a soft general rule most of the times, and in a way it can help organize how music should be taught depending on the age of the students, and why it’s better not to mix it up too much when it comes to the ages of the students.

 

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