Tag Archives: classical music

Music Careers for Your Personality Type

Are you wondering where you might best fit in your local music community? Check out this infographic shared with us by Emily Parker with collegematchup.net. As you’ll see, the multi-faceted music industry has a place for all personality types!

Music Careers for Your Personality Type
Source: CollegeMatchup.net

A GUIDE TO TEACHING CHILDREN MUSIC – Principle 2: “Self-Initiated Learning vs. Imposition”

“Children learn best when the learning is self-initiated, arising from their own curiosity and interests, rather than imposed on them.”

– Aletha Solter, Ph.D., “Principles of Learning”

Godfrey Kneller's portrait of IsaacNewton, 1689
Godfrey Kneller’s portrait of IsaacNewton, 1689

Newton hit the nail on the head with his third law of motion: “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Try verbally or physically trying to make a child do something will make them resist even more.

Examples:

  • Try forcing green vegetables into a kid’s mouth and they will refuse to open their mouth or immediately spit out whatever you put in there.
  • Yell at a child to get in bed and they’re be riled up and less tired or willing to sleep.
  • Try physically removing a child from doing or playing with something they like and they will kick and scream.

When we apply this to music and helping children develop the habit of practicing, negatively forcing a child to play a specific instrument or practice at specific times for specific lengths of time may produce results—BUT, on the other hand,  they might sap away a child’s desire to play over time. This happens especially if those measures result in reluctance, resistance, indifference, apathy, or rejection of musical activities or practice.

There are two types of motivation:

  1. Intrinsic motivation, or an inner desire or interest to do something, usually for the sake of enjoyment or self-satisfaction.
  2. Extrinsic motivation, or a drive to accomplish something in order to receive a reward or recognition from an outward motivator. Motivators include threats, bribes, prizes, fame, competition, pressuring, etc.

In teacher Lara Hansen’s article “The Inherent Desire to Learn: Intriniscally Motivating First Grade Students,” she says,

“When people are intrinsically motivated they feel interest and enjoyment in what they are doing. They also feel a sense of capability and determination. What they don’t feel is tension, stress, and anxiety.”

In general, people tend to enjoy activities more when they can enjoy the experience and develop a personal passion for what they are doing. Any trauma introduced to an activity in the form of external motivators can lead that activity becoming stressful instead of a pleasure to perform.

As teachers and parents, we can provide opportunities for a child learn an instrument, but imposing, pushing, or bribing a child will create resistance and perhaps kill the child’s original curiosity and interest.

But don’t worry! We all have negative experiences with music, like playing a bad concert or being pressured to practice because of an assignment or impending performance. External/extrinsic motivators naturally exist and aren’t all bad unless they kill our passion for music.

And even if desires and passions dwindle, they can be fed and nurtured back to life. Just because a child throws a fit and doesn’t want to go to a music lesson one day doesn’t mean all is lost—you may find the same child excitedly getting their instrument out to show a friend the next day.

They say curiosity killed the cat, but perhaps killing the curiosity in the cat is the sadder scenario. Let’s keep the desire to learn alive and well!

How to Keep Classical Music Alive

How can we keep classical music from ending up six feet under? (Photo by Ben Salter)

There are plenty of saucy articles floating around questioning classical music as a dying art, such as these treasures:

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Each of these articles brings up some very good points about the past, present, and future of classical music. So is it dying? And if there is any truth to the conclusion that classical music is a dying art, is there anything we can do to stop it?

HOW TO KEEP CLASSICAL MUSIC ALIVE

I don’t know what all the statistics are — ticket sales, CD and digital music sales, concert attendance, radio traffic — but I do know that the best way to

  • keep a plant alive is to water it.
  • lose weight is to eat less and exercise more.
  • accomplish something is the work hard.
  • make friends is to meet people.
  • learn an instrument is to practice.

So when you apply this principle of ACTION in the quest to keep classical music alive, the trick to making a difference in the music community is to do something about it.

INSTRUMENTS IN THE HANDS OF THE PEOPLE

At Kennedy Violins we are really serious about keeping classical music alive. That’s why our biggest priority is to get quality instruments into the hands of anyone and everyone who has any desire to play. We try our best to provide instruments, rentals, and lessons at the most affordable price for the quality because we want to give EVERYONE a chance to make music without unnecessary costs as a stumbling block.

I’ll use a gardening analogy. If you want to grow a garden full of produce or flowers or fruits, the first step is to plant seeds. Likewise, if you want beautiful music to be produced in your community, the first step is to get instruments into the hands of the people, especially the children.

Not to say that children are the only one who can play, but the majority of professional musicians who have found success started playing at a young age.

THE THREE ACTIONS THAT PERPETUATE MUSIC

Orchestra concert attendance, ticket sales, and symphony bankruptcies are only a portion of the picture. In the grand scheme, the continuation of music as a lasting tradition is based on three foundational elements:

  1. EducationIn order for music to be produced, musicians must be taught music performance, theory, and history.
  2. Performance In order for music to be produced, musicians must perform what they have learned.
  3. ListeningIn order for music to be appreciated, it must be listened to by people who care.

With that said, there are SO many ways to promote the ongoing exercise of these three foundational elements. I would encourage everyone to take part in these exercises by learning, playing, and listening to music. It’s all about INVOLVEMENT and faith in the lasting value of classical music as an important tradition worth perpetuating. May we each do all we can to support this worthwhile and enriching art.

Classical Music Genres of the Common Practice Period

Classical composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Playing music is more than just playing notes on a page. Simply playing the notes would be like saying words without expression, asking questions without the rising inflection at the end of the phrase, writing without punctuation, eating food without salt or spices, seeing the world without color . . . you get it. Creating beautiful music happens when you add flavorful touches and techniques:

  • vibrato
  • dynamics
  • articulation
  • style

That last one is hard to define for students and sometimes hard to teach. But when you understand the following classical music genres, you’ll know how to better shape a piece to represent the period in which it was written.

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THE COMMON PRACTICE PERIOD

The phrase “classical music” usually refers to any music played by an orchestra or ensembles including stringed instruments, piano, or vocals that feel . . . old. Music written by dead people who wore powdered wigs. Music directed by some guy in coat tails holding a stick.

Much of the classical music you hear today on classical music radio, Pandora stations, and Spotify playlists comes from the Common Practice Period. The term “Common Practice Period” refers to the three centuries between roughly 1600 and 1910 when the techniques, ideas, and written language of Western European music as we know it today were standardized and systemized.

THE THREE CLASSICAL GENRES OF THE COMMON PRACTICE PERIOD

You’ve probably also heard the terms “Romantic” and “Baroque” and “Classical” as sub-genres of general classical music. Well, that’s confusing. How can there be a classical music sub-genre of classical music?

Understanding the genres of classical music becomes increasingly important as beginning students advance into more mature performers. To bring some light to the subject, let’s break it down. From “oldest to youngest,” here are the three subsets of classical music.

1. BAROQUE (1600-1750)

  • Definitive Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach
  • Other Baroque Composers: Antonio Vivaldi, Arcangelo Corelli, George Frederic Handel, Henry Purcell
  • Defining Characteristics: Continuous bass line (basso continuo), use of harpsichord and pipe organ, introduction of written works such as cantatas and oratorios, smaller ensembles with limited or no wind and percussion parts
  • Performance Style: added embellishments and tremelos, little or no vibrato, trills starting on the higher note

2. CLASSICAL (1750-1820)

  • Definitive Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • Other Classical Composers: Christoph Willibald Gluck, Carl Philipp Emanuel (C.P.E.) Bach, Joseph Haydn, Ludwig van Beethover (early works)
  • Defining Characteristics: short melodies and phrases, obvious cadences, larger orchestra than Baroque, music in sonata form, eventual disuse of harpsichord and introduction of piano, quartet music
  • Performance Style: light and clear articulation, trills starting on the lower not, modest use of vibrato, more dynamic contrast

3. ROMANTIC (1820-1910)

  • Definitive Composers: Ludwig Van Beethoven (transitional later works), Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Johannes Brahms
  • Other Romantic Composers: Franz Schubert, Felix Mendelssohn, Frederic Chopin, Robert Schumann, Richard Wagner, Antonin Dvorak, Edward Elgar, Gustav Mahler, Richard Strauss, Sergei Rachmaninoff
  • Defining Characteristics: reflective of human emotion and expression; a response to social and political movements; rich and song-like melodies; more modulation and key changes; larger orchestra with more winds, brass, and percussion; programme music and symphonic poems;
  • Performance Style:  dramatic, expressive, wide vibrato, dramatic and high-contrast articulation and dynamics, rich texture, virtuosic playing, lyrical and song-like phrasing

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Next time you pull out your sheet music, take a look at the composer’s name and their birth and death dates (usually included after the name). Identify the musical period from which your piece was performed, then try adding the stylistic characteristics relevant to that genre of music. Perhaps you’ll find yourself developing a greater appreciation and understanding of the historical value of music as well as the brilliance of these amazing composers. Enjoy taking your performance to a whole new level of musical maturity!

Musical Role Models: Depressing or Inspiring?

Are you the type to be discouraged or inspired by great performers?

 

It seems there are two kinds of people in the world: those who react positively and those who react negatively in the presence of someone who is “better” at something than they are.

For example, while observing a successful performer having accomplished a specific task, individual A might

  1. be discouraged and tempted to throw in the towel.
  2. think or say something something like, “I’ll never be that good, so why bother?”
  3. believe the performer is showing them up.
  4. feel envy, jealousy, or enmity towards the performer.
  5. be hesitant to share his/her “lesser” talents with others in the future.

On the other hand, individual B might

  1. be inspired and encouraged.
  2. think or say something like, “That was incredible. What can I do to find similar success?”
  3. believe in the performer’s good intentions to share a positive achievement.
  4. feel gratitude and admiration for the performer.
  5. be excited to improve and share his/her talents with others in the future.

As a musician, do you find yourself more like individual A or B? When you see a great musical performance, are you inspired and encouraged to practice and improve, or are you tempted to give up?

Having a positive attitude about playing music is incredibly important to your success as an artist. Sure, we all have our frustrating days. Like when no matter how much you’ve practiced, you just can’t seem to get that tricky phrase down. Or you’ve spent months or years working on a piece to perform in a competition to discover one of your peers has smoked you on the same number and beat you out. There may be days when your teacher seems disappointed by your lack of progress, or your technical weaknesses may seem too challenging to overcome.

But music and playing your instrument aren’t meant to be torture, and practice shouldn’t be depressing. If you find yourself feeling discouraged about your progress as a musician, try taking some time to reflect on a few of these questions:

  • Why do you play your instrument?
  • How does music enrich your life?
  • How does music enrich others’ lives?
  • What are your greatest strengths as a musician?
  • What are areas where you can improve?
  • Who are musicians and performers who inspire you?
  • What do you hope to accomplish as a musician?
  • Do you love what you do?
  • Do you like practicing? Or do you hate it?
  • Do you set realistic goals for yourself?
  • Are you investing the time and effort required to meet your goals?
  • What motivates you as a musician?

I often think of a story my husband shared with me from his teenage years when he worked doing construction and remodeling. He worked with many foreign immigrants who struggled to make ends meet. Once, when driving around a beautiful neighborhood of large and impressive homes, one of his coworkers, Hugo, an older man with a difficult life, gazed at the beautiful homes and said, “Aren’t you so happy for these people? I am so happy for them. Look at the beautiful homes and lives they enjoy.” Hugo rejoiced in the successes of others, knowing that even if he never had the riches or talents or beautiful things they did, he could still be happy that someone could have them, if not him.

So even if you don’t perform solo at Carnegie hall or fight back a slew of fans dying for your autograph or sound like Joshua Bell, don’t be discouraged. No matter what level of performance you’re at, remember that there is no “perfection” in the world of musicianship. Be grateful for role models and teachers who inspire. We, including them, are all students, no matter our age, striving to create something meaningful through our art. We constantly improve in a never-ending effort to become a little better at what we do while enriching the lives of others (and ourselves) in the process. So don’t give up. Enjoy the journey, and let yourself be inspired!

Healthy Obsessions: Embracing Your Passions Leads to Success

Einstein: Obsessive Physicist

 

The successful theoretical chemist Henry Eyring once said to his son while working on complex mathematical equation, “We were working a problem just like this a week ago. You don’t seem to understand it much better. Isn’t this what you think about all the time?”

As the young man responded negatively, his father asked, “When you walk down the street, when you’re in the shower, when you don’t have to be thinking about anything else, isn’t this what you think about?”

Again, negative. The boy didn’t think about complex mathematics and physics in his spare time. His father, who had hoped all of his children would become successful scientists then said, “Hal, I think you’d better get out of physics. You ought to find something that you love so much that when you don’t have to think about anything, that’s what you think about.”

 

“Obsession”: A Bad Word?

In today’s world, the word “obsession” has been increasingly weighed down with negative connotations. When you think of an obsessed individual, you may picture a boy playing video games 18 hours per day, a woman who has spent $12 million on plastic surgery, or someone who washes their hands 100 times a day. You may view the characteristic of obsessiveness as a psychological disorder worth treating, avoiding, and fearing.

In truth, however, most of the greatest contributions to the society of man have been made by artists, scientists, inventors, mathematicians, writers, entrepreneuers, business professionals, and the like who have achieved greatness as a result of what may be labeled today as “unhealthy obsessive behavior.” The greatest classical composers and performers are those who have given their entire lives to their art. Thousands of hours of passionate thought and practice have led these self-made prodigies to such levels of success.

Einstein: The Passionate Violinist

Practice: Pleasure or Torture?

I remember as a student in my university’s school of music that I struggled to practice my bass three hours a day based on the curriculum requirement. Over time, I began to dread practicing, gazing out the window of my tiny practice room wishing to be anywhere else or doing anything else. Preferably, I would rather be hanging out with my friends, writing (my “other” passion), or playing and writing songs on the guitar.

As I showed up at my weekly lesson with my bass professor, he sensed my weariness and began to probe me with questions, like the scientist had his son. He wanted to find out how passionate I was about playing the bass, if it was something I truly loved to do, and if I dreamed and ate and breathed “bass” all the time.

Practice, of course, isn’t always “fun,” he said, but he wondered if I had the internal direction or desire I’d need to become the player he hoped I’d become. He asked if I loved to practice as much as he did when he was in school, painting a portrait of himself as a young student (with hair back then) who just couldn’t get enough of anything related to the bass. I just didn’t. I expressed to him my conflicting interests in other things, especially writing, and after some thought, he very sadly, but genuinely proposed that I reconsider my choice to major in music, encouraging me to do what I was most passionate about.

Well, I did finish my music degree and still perform classically. But I also endured a fifth year of college to complete an English minor and take as many writing classes as I could. And since I graduated, I admit, I’ve spent much, much more time writing that I have practicing. And while I feel most myself when I’m playing classical music and take every gig I can get, it’s writing that I think about in my spare time, when I shower, and when I walk down the street.

 

Embracing Your Obsessions

The word “obsession” and the word “passion” are practically synonymous. But notice when someone says, “I have a passion for music,” it doesn’t sound like a psychological disorder, but  like a wonderful thing—and it is! In order to become a truly great musician, yes, you have to practice your brains out, but you also have to love it enough to practice your brains out when you could be doing other things. You’ll find yourself practicing and listening to classical music because you truly, deeply, love it to the point of obsession.

Allowing yourself to embrace your passions and be “obsessed” with what you love takes a lot of courage. It means setting aside other activities you may enjoy doing to do what you love doing even more. It means letting yourself be crazy enough to spend hours at a time learning or creating something that thrills you to no end. It means doing something you feel you “shouldn’t” be doing if you were a rational person.

So no matter what you’re passionate about, whether it be your violin, your children, or the novel on your nightstand, don’t be afraid—for once in your life—to be a little obsessed. Live a little. Be a little crazy. You may be surprised to see how far it takes you.