Mar
18
2013

Music Training Boosts Brainpower: So Get Busy!

Another study has been released reinforcing what we’ve seen over…and over…and over again: that children who have musical training perform better academically. Let’s take a look.

ChildOnPiano

In a recent German study, 7 or 8 year-old children were:
a) given music training,
b) given enhanced education in mathematics and general studies, or
c) provided the standard educational coursework.
Students were evaluated at the beginning and end of the 18-month study in terms of visual and verbal memory. While there was no discernible difference in visual memory, verbal memory of the music group improved the most. Second was the group that received additional math/other studies lessons, and in dead last, the “control” group.

Sadly, here in the United States (as in many other places), Arts funding and classes are first on the chopping block when budgets get tight, and even when they aren’t, core coursework is often emphasized at music’s expense. And our children’s, apparently.

I encourage everyone to do something to fix this! If you can point this out to your school, your district, or your state, please do. But don’t wait for others to contribute to your child’s success in life, and don’t bemoan the outcome if they don’t. Make a commitment to your child or the child of someone you know: get that kid into music! There really is no downside, only upside.

And if you’re an adult reading this, wishing you “had it to do over again”, stop. Regret doesn’t change anything…but action does. Music gives so much and takes nothing but commitment. So get busy! Play. Sing. Do something positive for yourself and those you love. What else can you do that gives back so much? And who knows, you may even inspire a young one while you do it. It just doesn’t get much better than that.  🙂

Keep (or start) playing,
Mark

 

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Jul
6
2012

Do Something Excellent

I’ve been trying to formulate this article for some time now, and it’s just not getting any clearer. Please indulge me in some rambling; hopefully it will make sense by the time we’re finished discussing it.  🙂

Do Something Excellent!

We all do various things in our day jobs, regardless of “collar color”, industry, pay scale, or anything else. I’ve always felt you could demonstrate excellence in whatever you do, but let’s face it: even in the most opportune of careers, it’s not always possible, at all times, to deliver that “cut above”. Need an example? How about a firefighter on a day without alarms? As thankful as s/he may be for a day without tragedy, it can be unfulfilling to spend a day not doing what you’ve trained so hard to do. I’m sure you can think of a similar example from your day-to-day.

This is one reason music is so addictive. Picking up an instrument allows us to be productive, to be creative, and to be excellent. Playing an instrument gives your soul voice, and regardless of any rough edges you have yet to work out, that piece of music in front of you is your path to excellence. Escapism? Maybe. Fulfilling? Unquestionably.

Whether you’ve had your best day at work yet or the worst you can remember, pick up an instrument and do something excellent. We’ll talk more when I’m done polishing this little lick I’m getting back to now…  😉

Keep playing,
Mark

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  • Please check the Recent Articles and Topics to the right for more great articles!
Apr
9
2012

Trumpet Hero! Why Should Guitarists Have All the Fun?

I’ll admit to having sat on this one awhile, just because I wasn’t quite sure what to think of it. It’s so intriguing, though, that I just had to share it.

Ready to Squeal!

Courtney Sexton posted his answer to Guitar Hero in this article showing how he hacked together a Sony PS2 controller and a roached-out cornet to create TRUMPET HERO (video included)! It’s not for the faint of heart – if you get woozy from seeing real instruments (even sad ones) destroyed, please save yourself! – but it’s an interesting project.

It’s as close as you’re likely to get to actually “playing trumpet” in a videogame. Your breath is used as a replacement to strumming a guitar controller (no buzzing, though – just breathing through the pipe), and the valves/keys (plus a couple) are color-matched to guitar controller fret keys. Not a perfect match-up, but actually pretty clever.

Check it out! We’ve discussed before the benefits you can obtain from playing music-based videogames (see links at bottom of article), but this one takes things in a different direction. While we all probably agree that limited time would be better spent practicing a real instrument than pretending to play one, videogames are a fun outlet for many of us…and something that often kindles an interest in the thing being “gamed”. What do you think? Should Trumpet Hero (!), Guitar Hero, or Rock Band be cast in the dumpster? Or should music departments use them as recruitment tools and bridge builders?

Whatever you play, keep playing!
Mark

P.S. – Please keep comments respectful! It’s a big (musical) world out there.  🙂

 

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Feb
12
2012

Presidential Part-Time Musicians: Violinists

Every now and then we discover a famous Part-Time Musician (PTM) and it’s always fun to share it. This time, our discussion takes us to the White House!

Our friends at Violinist.com posted this article about the three American Presidents (to date!) who have been violinists. While it’s impossible to lay all of the credit (or blame) for any of their accomplishments to their study of music, it does speak to the contribution that being a musician makes to a person’s drive and dedication to accomplishing their goals.

Our hats are off to Presidents Jefferson, Tyler, and Nixon for their pursuit of music and all the benefits it brings to those who play…not to mention those who listen.

Keep playing,
Mark

For more information:
Thomas Jefferson’s Violins
John Tyler, Violinist
Violinist.com

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Feb
11
2012

How Improvisation Skills Can Improve Your Life

There has been much discussion recently about cell phone interruptions during performances. Many lament that this is a sign of the times, indicative of societal decline, or something warranting fines and/or physical violence (as in the recent NY Philharmonic performance). While it is indeed sad when a magnificent performance is affected by a thoughtless interruption of any kind, cell phones ringers are really no more disturbing than coughing patrons, unhappy children, or people snoring nearby. There are right ways – and wrong ways – of dealing with them.

The video that follows shows a graceful way of handling such an unfortunate interruption. When the cell phone rings, this wonderful violist doesn’t just try to ignore it; he embraces it! By responding in this manner, he politely points out the offense while impressing the crowd with his handling of it…recapturing the audience in the process. And how does he do this? By improvising.

Improvisation is something theater people work hard to polish. While some areas of music stress improv – jazz studies, for example – many don’t. Frankly, it’s a life skill that carries over into all aspects of living, if one consistently practices it.

Life throws all of us curves, every day. Working to develop your improv skills in music teaches you to “think on your feet”, to try to make a continuous flow of whatever is dropped into your lap on short (or no) notice. It’s a great skill to have, and one that can always be bettered. It’s frustrating and fun, challenging and (very) rewarding.

Strive to improve your improv and you’ll improve your life in the process. Thanks to PTM and dear friend David Carter for passing this along.  🙂

Keep playing,
Mark

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