Start with the Voices

“Tell your truth, find your voice, sing your song.”  Unknown

From the beginning of our life to the end of our life we express ourselves with our voices. At the beginning we experiment with our voices until it becomes speech and we communicate verbally, as well as with our body, from the beginning also. Crying babies get attention. They get fed or changed or held. In music, naturally, we also begin with our voices. This is an easy lesson that most get very quickly. They use these voice all of the time. Basically, we are just teaching them the labels of the different voices; making them aware of them. Here are some practice games that I use to help the students be aware of the labels for the different voices.

The five voices that I teach are whispering, talking, singing, calling and inner. The last is quite important for music in several ways. Music uses the inner voice to count rhythms as we sing or play. It uses the inner voice to stay in tune and sing or play with good sound. Music uses it to count times when we are silent while others play or sing. There are more reasons to use our inner voice to make music than we have time to explain. So, it’s important for children to recognize this voice from the beginning.  All of the other voices are part of our everyday life and you can invent games or use everyday activities to point out these voices. Below are some suggestions for games and opportunities to briefly reinforce the label for these voices.

I Love You Game.- Hug your child and whisper “I love you”, then tell them to whisper “I love you.”. Do this with your child for talking, and singing, also. Then tell them that you are going to say “I love you” in your head, but be silent on the outside, using your inner voice, and that they should say it inside their own head while you are hugging. Call it the “I love you” hug. Afterwards, ask them if they said “I love you” in their head while you hugged. If they tell you they did, smile and congratulate them for using their inner voice.  (If they don’t get this right away just keep practicing it.)

Calling voice is best used outside. It is sometimes called their Outside voice because of this. I usually teach this in the classroom by having them call good morning (or afternoon) to the teacher. But you can use this label on the playground or in a park by telling them to call to you if they need your attention. It is also a good time to reinforce the difference between calling and talking, by having them call to you when they are farther away from you and talk when they are close to you. After being at the park (or anywhere, really), on the way home in the car, you can talk to them about the different voices they used that day; whispering to their friend, calling to you from the playground, talking to you as they paused for a snack break, singing with a song on the way to the park, the inner voice “I love you.” hug they gave you before they ran off with their friends.

The volume and the quality these voices have are the very beginnings of dynamics (how loud a song is performed) in music. In our Amarant Music series all of this is taught and reinforced with a weekly video and four days of games and songs to teach all that I have described here. Please visit our website and learn about the exciting things we have to offer for homeschoolers or anybody wanting a comprehensive education in music.

 

5 Great Reasons to Learn Music – Part 4: Social

99.2% of parents find when their child becomes involved in a music program, the parent/child relationship improves. They also find behavior, communicative and social skills become more positive.

(Source: Board of Studies, New South Wales Australia, 2004)

Music Enhances Linguistic Skills. Music — specifically song — is one of the best training grounds for babies learning to recognize the tones that add up to spoken language.

(Source Sandra Trehubn, University of Toronto, 1997)

When I recruited for band, back in the day, one of the first things that I used to talk to potential band students about was family. Specifically, the band family they would have when they joined band. Students were often apprehensive at the least, maybe even very nervous about going into middle school. They wondered if they would make friends. They wondered if they would fit in. I would always assure them that being in band meant you had an automatic place to fit in. And, lo and behold, band did just that. We always called our band a family, all working for the same goals and striving together to be the best we could be. Making music together, whether in a middle school band, singing in a choir or playing together in a garage band is very social. It transforms people who barely know each other into people who are working together and, often, playing together.

Unlike in the article I wrote about the culture of music where I talked about relating music to the cultures people already belonged to, the tribes of music that gave people of the same culture a way to relate to one another, being social with music brings people of different cultures together. A woman from Romania can sing in the same church choir as a woman from Mexico and suddenly they are of the same family of musicians. They belong with on another in a group that is working for the same goals. In Amarant music we are using music from all over the world. All children, of all cultures will be singing the same songs, from Japan, Korea, New Zealand (Maori), Australia, France, Germany, America and Latin America, to name a few.   We will come together by singing and playing with music from many places but as one people. It becomes our music family.  When we learn these songs together, we have a common social arena. We fit in. We have a family. We belong. Imagine being part of that family, of growing up learning music with all of the others that are learning the same thing, having a common language with them (music), having the same experiences they had, having the same fun. Just learning music makes you part of that group of people. You can then be able to communicate in the same language they do-music! The social part of learning music is often the one that keeps people for life. I have played in many a community band with people well into their 80’s. We played music together, we socialized with each other, we had fun.

 

Amarant Music is interested in teaching the language of music to children so they can become part of that family of people. People who can not only listen and sing with their favorite song on the radio, but who can use their language of music to socialize in many different ways. If you, too, are interested in this, visit our kickstarter page to support this opportunity for our children to be part of this musical family.

 

 

Solfeggio – Should We Teach this to Young Children?

Solfeggio is the do-re-mi of music. You remember the song Do-Re-Mi from the movie Sound of Music? That song is a great example of the use of solfeggio. (If you haven’t heard it, by all means, find it and listen to it. It is so fun.) Maria, from the movie, teaches the children she is in charge of how to sing using do-re-mi. Solfeggio can be very complicated, there is a movable and fixed solfeggio that can get really complicate, but for our purposes we are going to start simple. So, the answer to the question in the title, is – of course.  If we start young it gives us the ability to get complicated later.

  1. Higher and Lower. Solfeggio is just the singing version of intervals (please see my  blogs Teaching Intervals – Part 1 and 2). Do to Do is an octave and Do to So is a 5th. We start teaching solfeggio the same way we start teaching intervals, with higher and lower.  In solfeggio we start with simple songs that are written with just Mi and So. They are very simple and we start by singing them together, getting them into our ears. Get out your xylophone and play the fifth note. It is a So. Then play the Mi, which is the 3rd note from the bottom. Play with these notes letting your child build a song with them. When they have played a bit with just these two notes, start by asking them to play the note that is higher (So/5th), then the lower one (mi/3rd). Make a game of it. When your child can play this game and get them right most of the time, switch. You play the note and sing So and let them show you with their body if it is higher or lower. Then do the same with Mi. Again, make it a game and have fun with it.
  2. Sing and improvise songs with So and Mi. Now we can really have fun with these two notes. Play and sing a 4 note combination of Mi and So and have them repeat it after you, then trade places. Let them sing and play combinations of 4 notes and you repeat after them. Make sure to praise their little songs. Tell them that they are writing their own songs. Go on to let them put together four of the four note groups and sing and play their songs to them with Mi and So and maybe even make up some words to go them. Have fun playing and singing these small songs with your child. Bond with them.

 

Amarant Education has these and other steps built in to our videos. We even start to teach Kodaly hand signs with the Mi and So, we add La and we teach the notes on the staff for all intervals.  If you would like our music education system for 40% off our opening price please see our Kickstarter.

 

 

5 Great Reasons to Learn Music – Part 3: Personal Satisfaction

“70% of those who were involved in music say that it was at least somewhat influential in contributing to their current level of personal fulfillment.”
Harris Interactive Inc.  (2008).  MENC Executive Omnibus Results Summary

That’s not very surprising, is it? Who doesn’t like music? Whether it is on a passive level where we just listen to music selections with a broader more informed understanding, or where we keep participating in musical activities throughout our life, people find that having learned music is integral to their personal satisfaction. From this we can conclude, personal satisfaction with having learned to be literate in music is an important reason to learn music.

I have played in many community orchestras and bands as well as paid positions in different musical venues. In most of these gigs I knew people in their 70’s and 80’s who played very well.  They had been playing all of their lives in some form or another and made a living doing other things. When I lived in Los Alamos, NM,  I played in a community band that was peopled by more scientists that worked at the national labs than any other players. These very busy people took great pleasure and much of their spare time to practice and play in that band. This tradition goes back all the way to  Oppenheimer and his group of scientists. Oppenheimer played in a string quintet with others that worked with him.  It would be safe for me to say that it was a great contributor to their personal satisfaction with their lives. It was socially and personally fun. For them, it was a life long pursuit.

Loving music is a great reason to learn it. We all love music, and if I have my way everyone will be able to learn to be literate in music. Music is everywhere and yet so many don’t know about what they are hearing.  They know if they like it or not. They feel a connection to the type of music that moves them, as well as the tribe of people who also love that type of music. It gives us connections to a group and a sense of belonging to that group. Imagine if your child could learn to be literate in music by the 5th grade. The connections with others could be two-fold. They would be able to talk with their tribe of music lovers with more knowledge and deeper understanding. Their personal satisfaction would multiply from having learned to be literate in music.

Learning to read and be literate in music affords us a wonderful opportunity to express our creativity.  Everyone likes to be creative. That is why hobby stores are so prevalent in our world.  Being creative with music is already a very popular pastime. People show their creativity by singing and playing in community groups. They go online and remix music that they love. There are so many song writers both online and off. They spend lots of money and time expressing their creativity through music. Again, imagine the creativity these people could express having been given a chance to be literate in music. Some would go pro, others would work at other things but use their knowledge of music to have greater personal satisfaction in their lives by being able to express their creativity through music.

One of the best, most far-reaching reasons to learn music is to increase our personal satisfaction with our lives. Isn’t what it’s all about? Giving ourselves and our children a better life.

One of the reasons we created the Amarant Music system is that we believe this premium music system will increase the personal satisfaction and educational opportunities for all children.  We want all children to be literate in music and have the benefits that accompany this literacy. If you agree, please visit our Kickstarter page and help us to get this to children around the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teaching Intervals: The Why and the How – Part 1

So what is an interval and why should we teach this to young music students? An interval is the distance between two notes in a melody. Recognizing that the melody in music is a pattern is one of the first steps in learning to read music. Since all melodies are just a series of intervals, seeing the intervals will help students to read the music later. I start with exploring the concepts of same and different and move on to higher and lower notes.

  1. Same and different notes. For younger children, 3 and 4 you might want to do a little review of same and different in life just so they have a good grasp of same and different.  Once a child has a good grasp of same and different you can explore the idea of the same with either a child’s xylophone (you know, those colored little instruments that you had as a child) or even better, a virtual one. They are free and easy to obtain. You don’t even have to go out. The one I like  best is in the android store and is simply called “Xylophone” from Easy Labs. It is great for little fingers and is on your phone.  It has a good xylophone sound and the higher C is the same color as the lower one. Starting out, I would just let them explore the sounds. Let them play with it for a while. To make it a bit more structured you could play a little improvisational tune and then let them play a little tune. After they have had fun for awhile, you introduce a game where you play the same notes or different notes. When you play the different notes always play an octave, 1 and 8, the lowest note and then the highest note. (This is assuming you have an octave xylophone. Sometimes they give you a couple of notes above an octave. In that case you would play a C and then the higher C.) This is what we are after. Can they hear if you are playing two of the high notes or the lower note and the high note? Or play the low note twice; and then low and high.  Always use an octave (C to C) for the different notes at this stage.  Make sure they are understanding notes that are the same and notes that are different before you go on to the next stage. This comes easy for some children and harder for others, but all will get it.
  2. Higher and lower notes. Once your child can hear that notes are the same or different, you can go on to the concepts of higher and lower. Again, if you are not sure if your child knows what higher and lower means, practice with them using their bodies.  My son used to lift his little sister up high and say higher and crouch down low with her and say lower. (Yes, he was just trying to get in a workout.) You probably have your own games you can play to illustrate this concept. When the concepts of higher and lower are firmly in their minds use the xylophone again to teach the concept of higher and lower in music. Play two upper C’s (the littlest bar) and tell them that they are higher notes. Same thing with the lower C’s (the longest bar) Then play a game where the child does a dance stretched out with their fingers up high or for the lower one does a dance with their hands down low and crouched down low like a troll. This body movement helps them to relate better and remember higher and lower notes. Make it fun by doing the notes close together and let them try to do the crouching and stretching quickly, or play a little rhythm to keep them dancing on one or the other. Switch places and let them play the notes and you do the dances.  Have fun with it, it’s a great bonding time with your child.

You have finished with the exploration and practice portion of this process. Tomorrow we will talk about the labeling process and label 5ths and octaves. Each level in Amarant Music teaches two of the 12 intervals. By the time students reach level 6 they will be able to write and hear every interval. It is just one way that Amarant Music makes children literate in music before they go into middle school where they can join band or choir with more music education than students currently going into college. Please, help us to make this system a reality by going to our Kick Starter page and look at what we are trying to do. Donate some money if you want more for our children and like what you see, even 5$ will help.

5 Great Reasons for Your Child to Learn Music – Part 2: Cultural

Music plays a very important part in all cultures; everyone can agree on that.  I have a friend that is originally from Guam, and when I started telling her about Amarant Music, and specifically that it is a world music system, she became very excited about our project. (She even went so far as to volunteer to sing a song from her childhood in Guam on one of our lessons.) One of the biggest benefits for her was the cultural identity that her children would get from that. Her husband is French and German, and of course she is from Guam, so she wanted her children to be able to connect with music from all of those places. Their cultural heritage was as important to her as was their present cultural identity in middle class America. Because she wanted all of the cultural ties that they inherited to be available for her children, she wanted to be part of our system of learning. Of course, she also wanted her children to learn music and liked the other aspects of our system, but the thing that spoke most to her  was how it would connect to her culture, and how she wanted her children to see it.

We all have very defined music cultures, even beyond the “American” or “French” music of our heritages. It helps us to be part of something. If you like rap, rap culture is a part of you, and if you like country and western music, it is a part of you. It connects you with others who share that music, and who share that culture and its values. You often seek friends and even partners with this criteria in mind.  (Not that we don’t have friends with different musical tastes, but we often make friends specifically around shared musical connections)  We make essential connections, both with the tribe and groups with identify with, choose to be part of, and to that tribe’s culture.  We so identify with this musical culture that it is often very important to us to try to indoctrinate our children into the same musical culture.  For people who listen to pop music, it is often important to them to try and share pop music with their children, so they play it for them when their children are little, and it can be one of the most dear connections when they share those musical tastes and cultures when they grow up.

So why learn music? Why not just listen to and sing along with music from your chosen music culture? Well, first, when we are literate in a subject we enjoy it more. There is a deeper satisfaction in even passively enjoying that subject. Being literate in language and reading makes us seek books of better quality, understand them more deeply, and enjoy them a lot more. Run, Spot, Run doesn’t do it for us anymore. Having a music culture and being literate in music does a similar thing. It helps give us a richer understanding of the songs we like, deepens our experience of them, and helps us to seek out songs with richer meaning to us. Also, we can take part in our music culture. We don’t have to sit passively on the side listening to music we like, we can add to it, and thus become an active participant in our culture. We can give our take on that type of music. We can add our voice. My friend from Guam knew a songwriter who writes songs based on his Guam roots; it is a part of his voice. He wanted people to hear his identity and culture from all of the different musical tribes to which he belonged.

 

If you would like to see this world music system and enrich the lives of your children, giving them the richest level of interaction with their world music culture, go to our Kick Starter page and get this system for 40% off of the regular price. It will be the lowest price ever, and it is available only during our kick starter project.