Music Quote of the Day: Did you know that…

When we double or halve a frequency, we end up with a note that sounds remarkably similar to the one we started out with. This relationship, a frequency ratio of 2:1 or 1:2, is called the octave. It is so important that, in spite of the large differences that exist between musical cultures- between Indian, Balinese, European, Middle Eastern, Chinese, and so on- every culture we know of has the octave as the basis for its music, even if little else in common with other musical traditions.

p. 31 from the book This is Your Brain on Music by Daniel J. Levitin


Become a Music Ed Blogger…like me

Check out Joseph Pisano’s invitation to become a Music Ed blogger:

100 Music Education Bloggers by January of 2009 and the DigitalMusicEducator have started a campaign to have 100 Music Educators blogging about music, education, and technology by January of 2009. We are inviting you to join our campaign and become an active blogger! This truly is the ground-floor of what IS the next wave of educational communication and thought/idea sharing for our fields (and every other one!). Read more here.

Practicing tips for parents and students: part 2

When it comes to practicing an instrument, I was always told what to practice but never how. I was also told that more time spent practicing created results. This meant as a young musician, I focused more on watching the clock than practicing with purpose. This same attitude of more practice (TIME)=better musician carried over into my teaching.

It wasn’t until I read The Practice Revolution by Philip Johnston I realized my approach to practicing was flawed. This book has given me the tools I need to help students understand the how of practice that is outcome based and results oriented. Geared toward parents and teachers, Johnston makes a compelling argument for quality vs. quantity when it comes to practicing; all in an easy to read, conversational style.

In his third book, Practiceopedia, Johnston has written “the world’ first complete practice room reference; a comprehensive 376 page fully-illustrated A-Z of practice ideas, strategies, tips, tricks and traps – in a breezy full-color magazine-style format that is browsable, fun to read, and bursting with information. ”

Here is a list of my favorite articles from Philip Johnston’s web-site The Practice Spot:

The Practice Revolution (Chapter 1 from the book with the same title)

The Role of Parents

Nintendo Practice
Don’t let the title fool you on this one…excellent read, especially for parents of “screenagers” a.k.a “videots” or gamers.

Practice Props

Why some students don’t practice

Teaching Music with Guitar Hero?

Christmas is over, but we are still rocking out with our new Guitar Hero III for the Wii here at home, and in our virtual stadium crowd thanks to some photoshop fun…

Several of the music-ed bloggers I subscribe to (see my blogroll) have discussed the idea of using video games to teach kids how to read music. Check out Engadet blogger Nilay Patel’s post on a company that has a created a “guitar hero like” game that uses a real guitar and gaming technology to teach kids how to read music.

And, if you really can’t stand playing GH with a plastic guitar controller, check out how to build your own custom full-sized Guitar Hero controller like the modified Strat in the picture below. File this under projects labeled “when-I-have-too-much-time-on-my hands…”

For Trombonists only

Photo Source: danny.hammontree

You have to share this post with all your trombone buddies. Check out the hilarious videos at thepetersonproject.

I wish I could embed a sample video here at the post, but they are unavailable. These are very clever short videos, films really, by Houston area freelance trombonist Steve Peterson.

WARNING: You won’t understand the humor of these videos unless you were in a college band/orchestra or are good friends with a knuckle-dragging-low-brass-yahoo.

p.s. I’m a trombonist.

Digital video and web-site review: a post about posts

What started off as a review post about the Flip Video quickly expanded into a larger discussion of using video in the classroom thanks to two excellent posts: One by Bob Sprankle at his bit by bit blog
and the other post (discovered in the comments on Bob’s post) by Matthew Needleman at his Creating Lifelong Learners blog

Now before you go and check out these two posts, let me give you my thoughts on my use of the Flip Video. I had been looking for an inexpensive (below $200) digital video camera to use with my music students. I initially purchased an Aiptek 720P HD Camcorder for about $150 at Target. While the video was excellent, the audio was unacceptable.

I was skeptical about getting a Flip Video, but you can’t beat Costco for a good deal on stuff you gotta have…I purchased a Flip Video Ultra for about $120. It records up to 30 minutes of video that is great quality in sound and sight for my purposes.

Some key bullets on having used the camera for awhile-
* I would suggest the Ultra Flip over the plain old Flip (see all the specs here) mainly because the Ultra comes with a tripod mount and looks cooler and is easier to hold.
* The zoom feature on the flip is virtually useless from more than 30 feet away IMHO.
*Mac users: the flip comes with pre-loaded software to allow you to play .avi files on your Mac OS. I could get the .avi files to play just fine in Quicktime, but was unable to import them into iMovie’08. I did get them to import into iMovie HD with no problem. (I’m still using Mac OS 10.4.11)
*This is a no-brainer camera for those of you think that digital+video=genius. It is very simple to use and the included cables for hook-up to your t.v. are a nice bonus for instant playback.
*Buy a USB extension cable before you come home with the camera. The flip out USB dongle is a nice feature, but I’ve found that it doesn’t quite work with my laptop USB configuration or my other desktop computers.


I know what you’re thinking, “Not another YouTube like video sharing service…we already use TeacherTube.”

Do check out the intro video below from I think it has some neat things to offer, particularly the video music lessons that can be paused and slowed down. Could have some neat teaching possibilities for your students and parents. I like the 5 minute concept for teaching mini-lessons.

Practicing tips for parents and students: part 1

Photo Source: linlin (back now)

I want to call your attention to a great article I found on the internet about kids and practice. Here is the link:
Mom, I don’t WANT to practice!

I strongly encourage you to read it, but I will highlight some of the key points below:

“…When a child starts to learn an instrument, the experience is often treated as the new adventure it is; but after the first few weeks or months, the novelty can wear off and the child becomes distracted by other attention-grabbers like TV shows, playing with friends, and other things that don’t require sitting for 20-30 minutes for concentrated practice.”

Hints to Survive Practicing

1) Try breaking up the practice time into two segments each day. Have your child practice for 10 minutes before school and 10 minutes after dinner.

2) Come up with an incentive such as a quarter in a jar every time they practice. At the end of two weeks, let them spend their money at a store or to treat themselves to a fast food goodie.

3) Sit with your child during practic
e time. Not only is this a great time to learn with them, but it keeps them on track.

4) Have your child give you a concert at least once a month. Nothing builds up a child’s confidence and makes him or her feel like an accomplished musician like having Mom and Dad or Grandma and Grandpa there as an audience. Plan the “concert” ahead of time and tell your child that they need to practice their lesson and then pick out four of their favorite songs to play for their big day.

5) Balance out practice time with a fun activity. Practicing DOES NOT have to be just playing your songs 3-5 times each. Integrate music flash cards, a book from the library about music, listen to some sort of classical or jazz music with your child and talk about the instruments you hear.

6) Let your child be the teacher for 10 minutes of practice time. Have them give YOU a mini lesson. You’d be surprised what you can learn from that little one!

7) DO NOT make practice time a yelling match or struggle of wills. There ARE times when kids just need a break from the daily routine, but let them know that that break is for one day only and the next day they will have to add some time on to makeup for their missed practice the day before.

8) Teaching them commitment and following through: Developing a consistent routine for practicing teaches your child that once they start something, they need to see it through even if it’s just for a given amount of time.

The BEST piece of advice I can give all parents is to stick with it. Be there to reinforce good practice habits. As teachers, we can only do so much reinforcing. It’s best to work as a team to help your child develop their talents and gifts. Praise them often even when they hit a few clinker notes.