Music Teacher's Helper Blog

It goes without saying that children often need to be encouraged to discover the world and learn new things, this sometimes means that parents and teachers may feel in the need of forcing them to do things they don’t want to do in order for them to learn valuable lessons, but when is this the right thing to do odo

So why are so many children taking ballet, violin, piano? Lately, I have been asking my fellow middle-class urbanite parents that question. About dance, they say things like, “Ballet teaches them poise,” or, “Ballet helps them be graceful.” And about violin or piano they say, “It will give them a lifelong skill,” or, “They’ll always enjoy listening to music more.”

New Republic

It’s often something that parents do with good will and no harm in any way to their children, but when it comes to art, forcing anything will only create frustration.

Passion for Music

As mentors, parents and teachers, their jobs are to encourage and show children the possibilites the world has to offer, however there is a fine line between forcing them to do something they don’t want to do out of lazyness and something they really don’t like.

A good idea could be to let them begin at home, these days there are so many ways to get started in music without having to go to a music school, this way a young aspiring musician will begin testing the grounds of what it is to play an instrument and if there is enough interest then classes could be a good idea.

However there is a problem, some young musicians just don’t

Self Taught Culture

History and tradition also has a big part in this in the sense that knowing how to play an instrument or learn how to dance was something a good family would do.

By the 1880s, when the United States began filling up with unwashed immigrants, a whole class of do-gooder, piano-taught ladies believed that one way to acculturate the new immigrants was to offer them, especially the children, musical instruction. The institutions of the settlement-house movement, as it became known, offered much more than music classes; they provided instruction in English, the trades, home economics, and many arts. But music was everywhere seen as one important key to the cabinet of proper, middle-class ways.

The New Republilc

While this is still a reason for some people it has obviously changed a lot since the 1880s, not only because of how music has changed and new genres came to be, but education and technology has also influenced in this aspect.

When knowledge was made as public as the internet can be, education took a turn, while still very much needed in its traditional form in order to maintain a rich and well structured society, a new wave of self taught culture rose through the internet, and with music, this new way of teaching yourself and creating your own methods, worked perfectly.

This sometimes makes it harder for music schools and teachers because there is an alternative, and many children prefer to go with that alternative, and if they are really passionate about it they will learn to play. The difference is there is no one to guide the person learning, and that person will probably skip some reading and all the “boring” parts of it. That is where the benefits of pushing someone into classes come in.

In Conclusion

Children sometimes don’t have the necessary discipline and determination needed when learning about music, and sometimes a little push is in order, however forcing someone into learning it’s a very different thing which can even cause dislike for something a young musician used to like so in the end, they have to give the first step, otherwise it may come as abad experience and nothing more than a chore

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As musicians, our most valuable sense is hearing, and while almost every human listens to the world in many ways, musicians understand sound better than anyone. This does not only affect how good musicians are at listening to music, it helps learning new languages and distinguishing certain sounds from one another, as an expert chef does with food.

Being so important in life, we should try to have a better understanding of what is sound and how is it possible. A world without sound would be very empty and it certainly gives a hard time to people who lose their hearing, but the interesting part is that sound is not just something you hear, it’s something you feel.

Science Says

Sound is produced by vibrations.

Sound is produced when something vibrates. The vibrating body causes the medium (water, air, etc.) around it to vibrate. Vibrations in air are called traveling longitudinal waves, which we can hear. Sound waves consist of areas of high and low pressure called compressions and rarefactions, respectively

Methodbehindthemusic.com

What is Sound Really?

One must ask the question “what is sound?” not just to understand how it comes to be and how we are able to perceive it, but to arrive at a conclusion where we might find a clearer understanding of the connection between a person and sound.

What are we listening to? after seeing the cientific explanation one might drop any cartoonish ideas of sound and say “I’m listening to soundwaves” and in a way it is true, but believing that you are listening to something and believing you are listening to something make a sound are two different things when it comes to how you as a human being perceive the world, and it has a bigger impact on musicians, whose talent is to manipulate sound.

Philosophy and science have always had a close relationship, and it is even with Aristotle that sound was being analized to see how it worked.

When speaking about voice in his treatise De Anima (On the Soul), Aristotle wrote that sound is a “certain movement of air” (De Anima II.8 420b12) but, even though he claimed that sound and motion are tightly connected, he did not seem to identify them (Pasnau 2000: 32). The natural scientists of the seventeenth century refined the intuition that sound is a movement of air into the wave theory of sounds, which appeared to be an obvious competitor for the quality or sensation (proximal) view. Galileo registered that.

Greeks philosophers were also scientists and Aristotle’s work had lots of explanations about how the world worked, including sound. However it wasn’t until modernity that sound was really discovered as waves that traveled through space.

Galileo wrote:

sounds are made and heard by us when…the air…is ruffled…and moves certain cartilages of a tympanum in our ear.…high tones are produced by frequent waves and low tones by sparse ones.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Phylosophy

Sound

Descartes joined in and in his Passions of the Soul considered that what we actually hear are not the objects themselves, but some “movements coming from them” (1649: XXIII). Indeed, around 1636, Mersenne measured the speed of propagation of sound waves.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

It’s a beautiful thing to think of musicians as the ones who study sound and learn how to mold it into melodies and rythms, it makes it sound as if it were magic, and in a sense, for many people it is like magic. It’s also important to remember that as people who can control sound, as years go by, we learn to use new instruments and tools to go even beyond, with computers, apps, new softwares and synths, we discover new possibilities with sound, not only through music, but sound in movies, animations and video games. As a musician, what is sound to you?

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There is much that can be said about a person that is so passionate about playing as he is about talking about music, John Cage manages to bring so much to the table from experimental music, great prowess as a pianist and a unique knowledge that practicaly makes him one of the most interesting philosphers of our time.

In this article we will be focusing on some of Cage’s most important topics so that by the end we have a better understanding of his point of view and music in general.

John Cage was born in Los Angeles in 1912, he studied at Pamona College, and later at UCLA with famous composer Arthur Schoenberg. After his time as a student he came to the conclusin that the music he wanted to make was very different from the music of his time, or any music by that matter, he said “I certainly had no feeling for harmony, and Schoenberg responded with ‘You’ll come to a wall you won’t be able to get through.’ only to make Cage determined to say, ‘I’ll beat my head against that wall.’”

Experimental Music

Cage said:

One does not make just any experiment but does what must be done. By this I mean one does not seek by his actions to arrive at money but does what must be done; by this I mean one does not seek by his actions to arrive at fame (success) but does what must be done; one does not seek by his actions to provide pleasure to the senses (beauty) but does what must be done; one does not seek by his actions to arrive at the establishing of a school (truth) but does what must be done

John Cage, “Writing’s through John Cage’s Music, Poetry + Art”.

In a way, a musician arrives to a complete musical work because it is some sort of second nature, or as if it’s every musician’s personal duty. This is an important thing to have in mind when thinking about experimental music and how the approach can be a success or utter failure.

In the 1930s Cage began experimenting with new ways to play and compose.

Whereas, in the past, the point of disagreement has been between dissonance
and consonance, it will be, in the immediate future, between noise
and so-called musical sounds. The present methods of writing music,
principally those which employ harmony and its reference to particular
steps in the field of sound, will be inadequate for the composer, who will
be faced with the entire field of sound. New methods will be discovered,
bearing a definite relation to Schoenberg’s twelve-tone system and present
methods of writing percussion music and any other methods which
are free from the concept of a fundamental tone.

John Cage, “Writing’s through John Cage’s Music, Poetry + Art”

Cage’s view on the world had a part in the making of post modern music, while understanding that post modernism is a continuation of sorts of the modern era, thus, we are looking at music that follows some patterns of modern music with some other elements. Cage understood this, and many of his works in the 1950s were already considered post modern by critics.

Philosophy of John Cage

Cage

During the late 1940s, Cage began studying asian culture and ideas through zen and indian philosophy in his words:

It was also at the Cornish School that I became aware of Zen Buddhism, which later, as part of oriental philosophy, took the place for me of psychoanalysis. I was disturbed both in my private life and in my public life as a composer. I could not accept the academic idea that the purpose of music was communication, because I noticed that when I conscientiously wrote something sad, people and critics were often apt to laugh. I determined to give up composition unless I could find a better reason for doing it than communication. I found this answer from Gira Sarabhai, an Indian singer and tabla player: The purpose of music is to sober and quiet the mind, thus making it susceptible to divine influences.

This last phrase says a lot about Cage’s state of mind during his compositions. With these influences and the avant garde context that he was in, including his admiration for Marcel Duchamp and other dadaist propositions, it became clear that his mind as a musician was going towards a new idea of music, one that relied on something more simple, just sounds and silence, while understanding that silence doesn’t exist and that sounds are more present than we think, it doesn’t have to be a perfect melody in order to feel the peace of meditation through the sounds of silence.

Some consider that he is one of the greatest musicians in the world, others believe he wasn’t really a genius but the truth is that his ideas rang a bell inside many people’s heads and to this day, his compositions receive high praise around the world

My favorite music is the music I haven’t yet heard.  I don’t hear the music I write.  I write in order to hear the music I haven’t yet heard.

John Cage

John Cage’s famous 4’33
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