Music Teacher's Helper Blog

It’s very well known that young children many times have big dreams, including becoming great successful musicians like their idols, and as teachers, the idea has to be always to get them closer to the dream as long as it’s alive, because sometimes, their goals change. Still that is their choice, to decide whether or not they love it as they get closer, and avoid them getting bored or hate what used to be their dream.

Eli Yamin, a Jazz composer, pianist, singer and teacher has a few words for young aspiring musicians:

Young man, you must ALWAYS play music.  The music you make brings beauty and positive spirit to the world.  And goodness knows, we need more of it.  Choosing a career in music is a separate decision.  A successful music career relies on the cultivation of many skills both musical and non musical.  To make a living or good wage as a musician, you need to develop skills in business and/or education.  These may or may not be of interest to you.  So, before putting all your eggs into the making-your-living-by-playing-music basket, spend time finding out where you are at in these other areas.

A lot has been said about parents encouraging their children, and teachers encouraging creativity but the part that really makes a boy or a girl want to make music is sometimes forgotten in search of better understanding of their abilities.

How is it possible to encourage this side of things? easy, talking about it, and asking about it.

The thing is, that it’s not very easy to find children talking about their dreams and experiences, i we were to search in google, chances are the results show tips on how to teach kids or how to interact with them but not their actual thoughts or opinions.

Of course one may argue that children’s opinions may not help as much as an expert’s opinion on the subject, or tips that let’s us organize our minds, but the truth is that sometimes there is a part of the dialogue that’s missing.

In the end music is very much a personal experience, while it can be shared it’s the relationship between the individual and the sounds

Dr Eric Rasmussen says:

There is a massive benefit from being musical that we don’t understand, but it’s individual. Music is for music’s sake. The benefit of music education for me is about being musical. It gives you have a better understanding of yourself. The horizons are higher when you are involved in music. Your understanding of art and the world, and how you can think and express yourself, are enhanced.

In many ways it shows that music can help children be more connected with themselves and develop creative skills while learning more about the world that surrounds them.

In the end, the truth is that a children’s mind doesn’t really recognize the line between imagination, dreams and the “hard” reality. This is something that it begins to lose strength as we grow older, and our dreams begin to fade into routines, jobs, and just getting life in order.

Undying Dreams

Dreams

There is a part of the way children’s minds work with these things that must stay the same, that’s why it’s so important in this case for children interested in music to have good guidance and express themselves about their goals and dreams. Casey van Wensem has an article about the line between dreams and realistic goals as a musician, she says:

While they may feel different in our minds, dreams and goals are essentially the same thing – they’re an idea of something we’d like to achieve at some point in the future. While a dream may seem like a far-off fantasy, it becomes more realistic when we connect it to the present through a series of short-, medium-, and long-term goals.

Dreams don’t die, we organize and learn to have a sense of discipline, which then makes them real. Children need to maintain their dreams, while learning how to use the tools to make them real, and for that, the best thing to start is a good little conversation.

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There are many ways to share the love for music, some choose to see it as hobby, others as a full time job, but there are cases in a musician’s life where they live to practice various ways to live from music, and it’s interesting to see how someone as a teacher goes from cultivating young minds to becoming legends in the history of music.

While it may sound more common for it to be the other way around, there are a few famous musicians who started teaching before getting all the glory for their work.

Gene Simmons: Rocker Teacher

It’s hard not to be aware of what KISS is, and if you know KISS you know Gene Simmons, maybe not by name but for his demon like make up and tongue. Well this rock and roll monster used to be a teacher for sixth grade children at a school in New York in 1973. He later came back to teaching as a part of a reality show called, “Rock School” which was very reminiscent of the movie called “School of Rock” witch Jack Black.

I really wanted to expand young people’s minds because everything begins with a great idea. But then of course, you enter the corporate world, and I was not allowed to bring in Spider-Man comics and teach the kids that you can be a pimple-faced teenager that the cops don’t like and the bad guys don’t like, but you can still become Spider-Man, which to me is more inspirational than teaching a Puerto Rican kid in Spanish Harlem about Jane Eyre, a rosy-checked white girl in England

noise11.com

Even as a teacher Gene Simmons always maintained his rocker attitude by saying that students would hate him for pushing them to be better, but would love him afterwards after enjoying the benefits of being a great musician.

Art Garfunkel and Math

Teacher

Art Garfunkel from Simon and Garfunkel was also a teacher befora and after his succesful career in the music industry.

After being asked in an interview what he could have don if he hadn’t met Paul Simon, he said that teaching would have been his life.

I would have been happy being a teacher. Architect, no. I went to architecture school for three years and it just didn’t happen. I didn’t have the gift. A mathematician? That’s a funny word. Mathematicians make their livings being employed by the Defense Department, or industry, and I would not have made it there. But a teacher, yes. I would have been comfortable being a teacher. I supported myself in high school by tutoring kids, and making decent money at it. That was my first instinct about what I could do to make money.

forbes.com

Garfunkel was back and forth concerning his life as a teacher. After “Simon and Garfunkel” he went back to teaching math in a school for a while, but not long after, he released a solo album, maybe inspired by his time as a teacher.

Sting

Before The Police, Sting had his fair share of classes as a teacher for around two years while he also played in Jazz bands, however it was not something he really loved doing.

I just was in hell when I was teaching. I inspired the kids only by teaching them what I liked and what I was inspired by and enjoyed – that was basically soccer and poetry. “The rest of it I couldn’t teach.”

contactmusic.com

And that is ok, because sometimes there is no relation between talent and knowledge and being a good teacher, even when it would seem logical, there is a passion and a sort of specific inteligence to know how to inspire other people while passing down the knowledge from one person to another.

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Musical instruments go through different process of constructions, whether it is because of the nature of the instrument itself or the particular process of wood instruments like a violin, guitars and more, in which the manufacturer does the work, this involves different types of wood and processes

Violin Builder

Terry Borman, a professional luthier shared his opinion on the business of making violins today by saying:

Makers are finding that, aside from the fact that it’s one of those feel-good things, it comes back to you many-fold,” Borman said. “By the time one idea has been churned around by 15 other makers, who have found 15 other opinions of doing it — maybe some of them are brilliant ideas and some of them are not-so-great, but at least you have the option to pick through them. It’s dramatically altered the landscape. It’s more of a camaraderie (now), as opposed to — it was almost like a sect.

Wood

Wood changes everything, from the sound, the weight and the whole way a violin feels. The ideal wood for a violin is Balkan maple for the ribs, the back and the scroll because of its density and light weight, and Spruce for the front part of the violin.

It is known that sometimes other types of wood were used such as cherry wood but only when the best couldn’t be found.

The general consensus amongst people who have studied wood their whole professional careers is that most woods become a little bit less dense, but it’s not a huge difference,” Borman said. When violin makers buy wood from a dealer, they know to test it for its density. “They sell wood that you pick it up and it feels like it’s lead, and you pick up some other pieces and it feels like foam.

Tools

There is of course a certain set of tools needed in order to build a violin, these include many woodworking and carving tools like, planes, chisels, gouges, saws, many types of knives , and scrapers. There are also, a few specialized tools are needed such as a thickness caliper, small curved bottom “thumb” planes, purfling groove cutter, peg hole reamer and matching peg shaver, bending iron, clamps of various types, and patterns.

Sometimes violin makers even make their own set of tools. This just shows the level of commitment and skill with using, and maintaining sharp edged tools.

Violin Strings

Just like any other instrument with strings, they have to be changed from time to time as rust and use begins to affect the quality of the sound, and it can even break for a few reasons.

The strings is the last part of building a violin of course, but essential for testing if everything else is in order.

Testing Wood Density

Violin

Today there are new methods to help with calculating density and information that could help build better instruments while still maintaining the traditional way of making them.

Borman said:

I decided, the easiest way to get a whole bunch of information was to just do a CT scan.

After studying what makes great wood for a violin he found that:

What we found is that makers today can access wood with similar material properties, so basically, let’s just move on to something else

On the other hand it’s interesting how close it came to another way of testing wood density, which is way less high tech than the other method, Borman says:

You slowly lower the wood into a bucket of water (and float the wood). Then you pull it out, and you mark with a pencil the line between the wet and the dry. Then you turn it around and do the same thing, you do the same test twice. Then you average those measurements, divided by the length. Basically, you’re measuring the buoyancy. So if it’s really heavy it’s going to sink farther into the water.

To know more details about how a violin is made, we recommend: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8GuxN5_59c

Terry Borman’s page: https://www.bormanviolins.com/

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