How To Make Music Practicing Fun Instead of Torment

One common concern of parents and music teachers is the daily practice students must adhere to.  At first, the child is excited and enthusiastic, enjoying the new instrument and practicing every day.  But life is not all fun and soon enough, the daily practices seem boring and less attractive, especially when compared with other options of activities.  At that point, the music teacher usually receives a phone call (or has a face-to-face conversation with a parent) along the following lines: “The kid is not practicing much any more. What should I do? Is it worth the investment of time and money? Should I force him/her to practice? Should I be angry? Should I threaten with some punishment?”

Well, my answer, which may irritate conservative music teachers, is not unequivocal.

Let me explain why:

Music, unlike many other activities in a child’s daily schedule, demands many hours of practicing, self-discipline, and commitment.  Moreover, this activity requires a high level of concentration.  Based on one or two lessons a week, the child must repeat and incorporate all that he/she learned throughout the week.  This is not a simple task, even for adults.  Therefore, it is unlikely that a child who has just started learning music will have perfect practicing habits.  He/she needs a work plan, a gradual program of becoming more committed to daily practices.

So here are a few tips to help you with the daily practicing:

1.  There is nothing worse and less effective than just saying to your child “go practice your music.”  It’s not much fun for them playing to themselves, with no one listening.  So ask them to play you a mini-concert.  You can do other house chores at the same time, but do listen and react encouragingly to their efforts.

2.  Always complement the playing, even if it is not perfect.  You have no idea how much it helps.  It boosts your child’s self esteem and self confidence.  Your child craves a positive feedback, much like they waited for you to say “”Wow!”” when they started walking.

3.  Allow your child to play even in front of the TV.  Even the great cellist Misha Maiski does it – I heard him tell it himself.  And why not, actually?  Music playing should be an part of the activities in the house, not a lonely pastime.

4.  Encourage the practicing through a system of rewards.  Keep count of the time they practice and reward them with a small gift or a privilege.  You can keep a chart of stickers, one for every good day of practice, and decide that a certain amount stickers entitles your child to a bigger reward.

5.  Kids love performing and showing off what they can do.  Film your child playing and upload the clip to YouTube or social media sites.  They can also watch themselves playing and perhaps improve on what they see.  Knowing others are watching will spur them to improve their performances.

6.  Try to be part of the lesson itself.  Even if it is not always convenient, make an effort to be present in the lesson.  Ask the teacher how you can help your child at home, perhaps with a system of memorization.

7.  Ask your child to teach you how to play.  Teaching is a great tool for learning.  They can practice techniques and melodies through teaching you.  This way, the usual practice can turn into a fun activity for both of you.  Moreover, you will then understand the teaching method and the challenges your child faces.

Don’t forget to update me with your progress. Send me video clips of your child or student playing.  I will be glad to post them in a special post on my blog.  But don’t forget to share with me what’s happening during your lessons and at home, so we can all learn and improve our approaches and teaching techniques.

The best YouTube clip and explanation you post in the comments section
here will get $ 30 gift card from Amazon.

I will also publish it in a special post. Please, share this with anyone who can enjoy and learn from this post.

Good luck and pleasant playing.

Yours,

Maya

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How To choose The Best Musical Program For Your Child

Our kids have a huge selection of after-school activities these days. As a mom, I find myself driving my kids at least ten times in one week to at least 20 different activities. The variety is endless, but time and money are limited, not to mention the toll these activities take on social interactions between kids in the afternoon.

Nevertheless, musical activities are in high demand, mostly because music helps the cognitive and emotional development of the child. There is also the added benefit of learning how to express oneself creatively in front of a large audience. Parents feel proud and excited when they attend their kid’s recital and listen to the fruit of their musical efforts.

Many parents prefer to have musical lessons at home, so that they can have one less activity to drive their kids to. It is more convenient to bring a music teacher home.

Here are some points to help you make an informed decision on whether to teach your kid music at home or send them to a formal program:

1. Formal programs, such as local conservatories, hold themselves to a high standard of teaching. As a parent, you may feel uncomfortable seeing your child putting many hours of practice before a concert and getting emotional about it, not to mention taking a test to continue to the next year. But you must remember that these factors force the teachers to make sure they teach at a high standard as well.

2. Conservatories and schools include in their programs two important parts, which may help beginners and intermediate students:

* Group interactions, such as orchestras and ensembles.

* Theoretic information  through listening and learning music theory.

The social interaction during playing music helps keep the level of motivation for playing and practicing. Even for us, adults, it is hard to keep up the motivation when we do things on our own, without the feedback of others.

The theoretic lessons deepens the musical knowledge of the child and expands their cultural horizon’; a great development for every person.

3. All activities are included in the same tuition. There are no unexpected costs.

At the same time, a private music teacher offers some advantages as well:

1. The price of private lessons is often lower and easier to control than the one of a program at a local school. (You pay per lesson.)

2. The atmosphere at home or at the teacher’s house can be friendlier and the emotional connection deeper. The teacher can become part of the family and the kid may feel less threatened and freer than in a formal setting.

3. A private teacher can create a pace suitable for the kid’s personal progress, without having to answer to official standards. The kid gets full attention and there are no tests.

4. A private teacher can teach the kid different kinds of music, according to what the kid likes. There is no official program to follow. This way, the kid can have a deeper emotional and intuitive connection with the music.

5. A private teacher can start a concert in the kid’s home, a less threatening and more intimate setting.

6. At a more advanced stage, you can decide to combine the private lessons with participation in an orchestra or ensemble.

7. And let’s not forget the issue of convenience. Lessons at home or at the teacher’s house, which may be nearby, create a better chance for a consistent schedule, as well as progress.

In any case, when you choose a music teacher, the most crucial factor is the connection between your child and the teacher. I will write more about that next time.

Good luck,

And don’t forget to share your experiences with me and the other readers of the blog!

Yours,

Maya Liberman

 

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How to Recognize Musical Hearing

 

A girl playing violin in The Hague

A girl playing violin in The Hague (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Friends, who are parents of toddlers, ask me many times if their child is musical. The answer is, in fact, not as simple and unequivocal as many people presume. Many parameters figure into the musicality of a person. Yet, after observing and testing hundreds of kids, I can honestly say I have never come across a child who is completely lacking any musical inclination.

Music is an integral part of our existence, from the moment we are created. By the 14th week as embryos, our hearing is developed to the point of sensing sounds, earlier than our sight, which only develops after four months out of the womb. The embryo senses his/her own heartbeats and the mother’s as well, along with other sounds which penetrate the shelter of the womb.

Moreover, both Oliver Sachs in his book Musicophilia and Shinitzi Suzuki, the renowned violin and musical teacher, conclude that every person is musical and can play an instrument. Music has a special meaning for each of us, but many of us don’t get any training which can develop our musical potential.

Sachs describes in his book several of the rare people who don’t feel anything when listening to music, but perhaps the most famous unmusical person is Zigmund Freud, who was appreciative of many art forms, such as literature and sculpture, but could not see the value and significance of music. The generations which followed him corrected this error in judgment.

Shinitzi Suzuki, one of the best violin teachers of the 20th century, claimed and proved that every child can learn to play the violin, depending mostly on the will of the child and his/her family. He showed the world that hundreds of children could play this instrument, which is considered difficult to master. Many teachers today carry on his legacy, whether by fully embracing his methods or by integrating some of his ideas into their own teaching.

This thinking conflicts with the general opinion, which claims that the violin, and all of its stringed relatives, require exceptional musical hearing for mastering them.

So is musical hearing really not necessary for playing an instrument? And if so, what is needed? My experience of teaching has shown me that students can learn to play well even without exceptional hearing. The hearing ability can be acquired and depends on the efforts of the student and his/her exposure to the materials.

A child who listens to music regularly, receives training and experiences playing on any instrument, is likely to develop a better musical hearing than a child who has not received these tools.

So here are several tools for developing musical hearing:

1.  Expose your child to music as often as possible, the more the better. Listen with your child to music any chance you have. Share your critical thinking and opinions about music you like and dislike.

2.  Ask your child which music he/she likes and dislikes and why. It is very important to help your child develop a musical taste.

3. If you like a certain kind of music which allows it, don’t hesitate to start dancing and let go. Enthusiasm is infectious.

4.  When your child is ready, at age six or seven, let him/her try an instrument.

5.  Don’t pressure your child to play, but create a natural musical environment at home, through YouTube, radio and TV channels and, of course, the music you own.

6.  Take your child to a music store which has a large choice of classical music recordings and choose together the music which your child wants to listen to.

Here is a real story, to sum up:


In my work with  Symphonette Raanana Orchestra, I present and play in concerts for kids in grades 1-4. I am often asked at what age I started playing. When I reply that I started my musical career at age 6 by playing a recorder, the kids are surprised. When they hear that one of us started playing the violin at age 6, they are excited. It shows that they are not aware of the possibility of playing these instruments.

Part of our role as parents is to open our kids to the experience of these instruments, which Suzuki proved every child can play and enjoy.

Our responsibility is to allow them to develop their personality and creativity through the world of music.

Yours,

Maya

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Six Ways to Develop Musical Awareness in Your Child

Today I meant to write to you on how to help your kids love music.  The truth is that if you read my life story in the earlier posts in my blog, you could quickly gather that the process for me started through the unmediated exposure to music through all media.  The radio that was always open and accessible, as well as the records with their various styles, “opened” my ears.  These, along with the natural curiosity of a child, are the first stepping-stones in the development of the love for music.

We are living in an amazing time, technologically speaking.  If once we had to go to musical libraries or buy a vinyl album to listen to any song or classical work, the digital media of these days has offered us countless accessible possibilities of exposure.  Push a button and you have an endless line of songs, classical works, different versions and information.

Indeed, very often when parents of kids who play music ask me how they can expand the musical knowledge of their kids, as well as their own, my answer is very simple and, you’d be surprised, often very cheap.

Here are six ways to develop musical awareness in every person:

1. Turn on the radio or any other medium which broadcasts music: TV, YouTube or the radio channels through the smartphones. That’s all!

2. Let the music go with you everywhere – at home, in the car, on cable TV. (On cable TV, you can even find some other wonderful channels of classical music. Most are audio, but one has video and is called Mezzo.)  The advantage of some of the radio stations is that it is very accessible.  The editors usually choose canonical works, so it is very easy to learn with its help all the important and famous works, and most importantly, the news are broadcast every few hours. (Thank God!)

3. Choose several classical works that are accompanied by a narration.  The story behind the music, whether it is biographical of the composer or describes the music itself, allows the kids to identify emotionally with the music.

4. Try to listen consciously and ask yourselves and your kids what you are hearing: which instrument, what ensemble, what kind of music, what it awakes within you?  Sing the familiar tunes even when you are not listening to the music.  This way you will slowly engrave the music on your mind.

5. Look up the composers and works on Wikipedia and YouTube or other sites.  Try to find different recordings of the same work and read about the composers and the works themselves.  This will allow the kids to receive richer information and listen with greater awareness.

6. Take your kids to as many concerts as you can.  I’m sure you can find concerts for kids in many places.  Even if your kid insists on leaving before the end of the concert, it is still a great experience for the long run.  You will see that as their love for music develops, so will their patience and they will sit through the entire concert, captured by the sounds.

I can tell you that this is exactly what I do with my kids and both love many different kinds of music.  They have no problem listening to the Beatles, Michael Jackson, and The Magic Flute of Mozart or to Keith Jarrett, the wonderful pianist. They hum more popular tunes they hear at school and enjoy a rich musical world.

We have the option and the obligation to expose our kids to wonderful, deep, rich content.  We just need to turn on the radio on the right wavelength.

I’d love to hear about your experiences and those of your kids and friends.

So good luck and enjoy listening.

Yours,

Maya

 

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From the Bottom to the Top- the Birth of my Musical Personality

 

Although I experienced many unsuccessful trials of playing the piano, I insisted in pursuing my eagerness to be involved in making music. At the age of eleven, I took my mom by the hand and dragged her to the Music Conservatory School. I met the principal, who tested my musical ear. My musical hearing ability was not so bad, therefore, he recommended that I play a “serious” instrument such as the violin or cello. Because I had a good friend in school who played the violin and I did not want to compete with her, I picked the cello.

Just like that.

English: Study of a three-quarter size cello. ...

English: Study of a three-quarter size cello. Français : Étude d’un violoncelle taille trois-quarts. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maybe not just like that.

A few weeks before this, a symphonic orchestra visited my school. The variety of instruments showcased, exposed me to the high multitude of symphonic texture. During the concert, I noticed an especially large instrument called the double bass.  The double bass is larger than a cello and caught my attention so much that I decided that I wanted to play such an instrument. Through this childhood experience, as an adult, I realized that early exposure to a musical instrument can give widely to the amount of children who play musical instruments.

Back to my music test….

As a result of the excellent outcome of my meeting with the principal at the Music Conservatory School, my mother decided to use reverse psychology on me. She strongly declared to the principal that she was not interested in buying me a musical instrument. (This was completely opposite from how she behaved with my sister when she strictly enforced the importance of playing piano every day.)

It worked!

My mother never insisted that I practice and play the cello. Sometimes she would sit next to me while I played to show her encouragement. She recognized the difficulties that I had in devoting so much of myself to the cello so she did not push me over the edge. Until today, she humorously reminds me of the times when she lovingly asked me to play one more minute…five more minutes.

But don’t get me wrong, I wanted to play more than she wanted me to play for all of those minutes. I just didn’t have enough self-discipline to make the it come to fruition.

In the meantime, I became a very serious cello star in my school. I played cello and sang in the choir during every school ceremony. Finally, I felt that it was worth it to come to school because I was highly appreciated for my musical abilities and status. I was considered special by my peers and teachers.

Dealing with music gave me deep intellectual, emotional and psychological skills. The advanced standards for achievement, self-discipline and artistic responsibility that I implemented help me in all aspects of my life. These tools are universal and do not have to be necessarily connected to music. They can improve your creative abilities and day-to-day life.

Have you met something in your childhood which influenced your career?

Did you play an instrument as a child? Did it influence your life?

What was the prominent gift that music gave you?

Yours,

Maya

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Get Into the Groove?!

When I started to write about talent, geniuses and musicality, I was amazed to discover how much these subjects attract people. However, on the contrary, it is not so surprising because almost every one of us has tried or would like to try a musical instrument. The reason is not coincidental. There are a lot of researchers that connect the strong relationship between children‘s cognitive abilities and their musical experiences.

One of the most famous books on this subject is “Mozart Effect” by Don Kemble. Although almost every serious musicologist tried to criticize Kemble, for the first time in history the public understood and learned about the connection between music, creativity and therapy through. This approach became widespread and the book became a best seller. Soon enough Kemble’s theory was adapted the commercial market, and “Baby Einstein” was born. As a result of watching the videos, every family with children under 12, like me, can recognize the famous music by Mozart, Vivaldi and Beethoven.

Back to my story… I didn’t tell you, and in fact I didn’t intend to tell you in the beginning of writing this blog, that as a seven-year old girl I had a learning disability. Do you know the children who daydream in the class, talk to trees, look at the sky and don’t write anything in their notebooks? Today these children are defined as ADD and they are given pills. I was one of them. I couldn’t write until I was 8 years old, so my mother asked my teacher to write my homework. It was not a bad arrangement when I think of it… I was enjoying school so much that I was absent it five out of the six days per week. Eventually, I visited school only on Friday (the shortest day of the week in my country) after my mother begged me to go to school.

Although formal education in elementary school did not captivate my mind, I found myself listening and playing music constantly.

Ask “Why?”

Maybe because music was one of the few things in my life at the time that had significant and meaning to me and made me stand out as a unique child. When I played my music, I was proving something special; I was different from other children. Also, when I played together with my peers in recorder groups developed my strength of being part of a team.

I still remember climbing up the little hill happily after school to go to my recorder group lessons and. I also played (not practiced of course) at home.

When I think about my disability and how I handled it, another famous example comes into my mind.

Do you know this guy?

Michael phelps with house speaker Busch.....

Michael phelps with house speaker Busch….. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While reading Michael Phelps biography is quite interesting, his ADHD is only mentioned in one sentence, while his phenomenal records span over more than 30 long paragraphs.

So, how can you explain his success?

What is the secret that will lead us to significant amount of success stories like Phelps in sports and others in music?

Can you tell me about a musical hero or a personal role model who has a similar story like Phelps?

Let’s stop here for a moment after reading my educational history. What do you think is the outcome of my academic track record?
Looking forward to your comments, insights and interesting links.

Yours,
Maya

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