A Fable from the Land of Music Notes

Children love stories. Sometimes stories can be used to teach difficult concepts. I remember a story that a music teacher used to tell to explain dotted quarter notes, and some 58 years later, I still remember it. Here's is another story about note values. I hope you enjoy it. There once was a land where … Continue reading A Fable from the Land of Music Notes


Props for Musical Play

Creating a musical environment for very young children is crucial. Among the many things adults can do is to provide children with suitable musical toys with which they can interact, exploring the sounds they can make with the toys. Here is an excellent article on this important stage of musical development in early childhood.

Make Music Everyday

There are a wide variety of musical instruments and toys that are available for children of all ages. Some help children’s musicality, and some are very annoying, like the guitar pictured below (trust me, I know from experience.) 20140125_083143

While you can buy all sorts of props, and I suggest that you do, here are some ideas for the Do-It-Yourselfers out there. Dancing ribbons and scarves are great ways to encourage musical movement in young children. They are fun and colorful. I suggest these over the streamers on sticks for young children because children running around with sticks is never a good idea. These are more durable, too. However, you may not need the dozen or twenty-something that come with the sets sold by music education retailers. If you DIY, you can make scarves or dancing ribbons in you or your child’s favorite colors, which may encourage them to use it…

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Tannhäuser – Pilgrim’s Chorus by Wagner

If music runs in your blood now, it probably got there at an early age. It was that way with me. Here’s a story of how music comes to mean so much to us.

ms. espressivo

I love choral music. The first time music shook my soul was when I was just under ten years old listening to Sound of Music’s choral finale of “Climb Every Mountain.” I was never the same girl since then, for I have been entranced under a spell that makes me fall in love with music time and time again. I love that nearly one hundred voices come together to create such beautiful harmony, which transcends my heart into an intriguing and unfamiliar dimension.

I recall learning extensively about Richard Wagner and his opera Tannhäuser during my studies in college. My professor would spend weeks on going over the story line, the symbolism behind each character, many different arias, the musical form of certain orchestral selections, and how the music relates to the sentiments of the characters. While all the lectures were informative, I was not amused. However, when he played a recording of the end of the opera when…

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How Can Students’ Practice Be Improved?

Regardless of how successful a private music lesson is, a large measure of the student’s eventual success depends on regular and effective practice at home. Often, attention is given to how to get students to practice more, but not enough attention is given to what students should be doing when they are practicing. I have … Continue reading How Can Students’ Practice Be Improved?

Responding to Music in the Core Arts Standards and Beyond

Responding to music has been among our music standards from the beginning of the first standards. In its original context, responding was primarily a standard for non-performing students, and was most utilized in music appreciation classes, or listening units in general music sections. As it is now presented in the Core Arts Standards for music, … Continue reading Responding to Music in the Core Arts Standards and Beyond

How To Ease Musical Transitions

I expect that all of us have found from our own performance and from directing our performance ensembles that transitions always need extra practice; those measures in a musical work where the composer moves from one section to the next, or one theme to the next. Everything is going well, and then we arrive at … Continue reading How To Ease Musical Transitions

Reflections on a New School Year

As the new school year begins, it seems fitting to call to mind the things teachers do to get themselves and their students off to a good start. Students need five things from teachers to succeed in school, and they are never more receptive to them than at the beginning of the year. Those five … Continue reading Reflections on a New School Year

Memorising Beyond the Notes

Much of what we love about music are things we hear that the composer wrote in the score; directions that the performer followed. Other great things about music we hear are elements that cannot be written down, but are made part of the performance and the musical surface which we as listeners interpret and enjoy. This post reminds us of how important both of these are–that going beyond the pitches and rhythms is when music really gets good.

Memorising Music

notationsMost of the time when we think about memorising music, we think about learning the notes. This is perfectly natural of course – without the notes, of which there can be a great many, there would be no music, no melody, no harmony. However, getting the notes right is only part of the story, and how the notes are played is just as important. Dynamics, tempo, attack, articulation, phrasing, voicing – these extra notations are crucial to making music and can change a mediocre rendition into a brilliantly insightful interpretation. However, memorising these markings can be just as big a task as learning the notes.

Unlike the notes themselves, in general there are two different types of additional notations to memorise: those written on the score as prescribed by the composer, and those decided by the performer who is interpreting the work. Depending on the composer (and the performer!)…

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More on “What Is A Melody?”

Yesterday, I discussed a balanced definition of melody; one that was broad enough to include all music that contains melody, regardless of cultural difference, and one that was specific enough to exclude sequences of sound that by common consent are not musical. The fundamental way that humans learn what a thing is or what it … Continue reading More on “What Is A Melody?”