11.22.18

An Attitude of Gratitude! – How to Be a Thankful Musician

Posted in good musicianship, helping your child succeed at 5:00 am by Administrator

Be grateful!

As growing musicians, we spend much of our time trying to get better at what we do. We’re always striving to break our bad playing habits, learn new things, and become better at our instruments. Although it’s important to focus on making progress, it can be equally important to sit back and truly appreciate where we are on our musical journeys. With Thanksgiving coming up, try taking some time to think of some things you’re grateful for as a musician. You might just play better as a result!

Being grateful doesn’t just help your playing; it can bring you less stress and better health as well. According to psychology professor Robert Emmons, “Gratitude research is beginning to suggest that feelings of thankfulness have tremendous positive value in helping people cope with daily problems, especially stress.” In addition to being less stressed, grateful people also tend to be more optimistic, a trait that has been shown to boost the immune system. For musicians, less stress and better health can lead to stronger, more confident performances, less worry about bad playing days, and more productive practice. So how can you reap all these wonderful benefits? Bringing more gratitude into your life is as simple as shifting your perspective. Here are five easy ways that you can be thankful for the way you play.

1. Be thankful for your progress.
Look back in your book and play a song that you did several months ago. Remember when it was hard to play? Now it’s easy, because you kept on practicing and working hard! Take a minute to smile and enjoy the things you’ve accomplished during your musical career.

2. Be on the lookout for little things to celebrate.
Major progress isn’t the only thing you can be grateful for. If you nail that tricky spot in measure 5, that’s something to celebrate and be thankful for. If you play a gorgeous note, take a second and express your appreciation.

3. Give thanks for your body and mind.
As musicians, we ask the tiniest muscles in our body to do very complex, precise things, and we train our brains to be able to juggle a number of processes at once. Think for a minute about how wonderful it is that your body and mind can do these things, like buzzing your lips to create exact pitches, playing different rhythms with each of your arms and legs, and reading music with ease. Reflect on how cool it is that we can train our bodies and minds to make beautiful music.

4. Turn a bad day around–appreciate your losses.
Nobody likes having a rotten playing day, but even bad days offer things to be grateful for. If you get some feedback in band that you don’t like, you can turn it around and be thankful that you can use that feedback to grow. If you’re having a bad playing day, be thankful that this isn’t how you sound on a good day! Often, when we find something to be thankful for, we can see humor in a bad situation, and even learn from it so we can do better next time.

5. Be grateful you’re a musician!
Musicians are unlike any other kind of people. We have the ability to tell stories and express the deepest, most powerful emotions in a way that words cannot. As a musician, you share a common bond with great artists throughout history, from the ancient drummers of Africa to Mozart to Alicia Keys. Few people have the discipline and dedication to be musicians–and you DO!

When you practice appreciating your musical abilities, you may find that progress comes more quickly and playing becomes more fun. Think of something you appreciate today–it’ll help you enjoy the way you play!

09.30.18

Music Reading Challenges…And How Parents Can Help

Posted in beginners, good musicianship, helping your child succeed, reading music at 5:00 am by Administrator

Music reading

This week at Lead Mine, our band students are beginning the process of learning to read music! Reading music can be quite tricky for young musicians; fortunately, there are many ways that parents can help make it easier. One great way to help your children is to understand the difficulties they’re facing as they learn to read, and respond to them with encouragement and support. Here are several common troubles that young musicians may have during the early stages of music reading, and ways you can help:

1. “This is too hard! I quit!” For many students, learning to read music is a very difficult and frustrating endeavor. After all, learning to read music is a lot like learning an entirely new language! If your child becomes frustrated during practice at this stage, encourage her to take a 5-minute break and return to practice when she feels more relaxed.

2. Trouble getting through an entire song. One major reason that kids get frustrated with music reading is that they try to “bite off more than they can chew”–they attempt to play an entire song without stopping, but their technique isn’t strong enough to accomplish this quite yet. If your child is annoyed because he can’t play a whole song in the band book, encourage him to concentrate instead on one or two measures. Small steps lead to big improvements!

3. The pieces at beginning of the book are boring, but the ones in the back of the book are too hard. When students begin reading music, the pieces they’re able to play aren’t exactly exciting. However, these simple pieces of music help students gain important musical understanding, skills that enable them to build a strong foundation for future musical success. Even if your child doesn’t enjoy these early pieces, encourage her to practice them carefully anyway. By mastering easy tunes today, your child creates the possibility to succeed at tougher music down the road.

09.16.18

Four Steps to Excellent Music Reading

Posted in helping your child succeed, practice, reading music at 5:00 am by Administrator

Music reading

At this point in the year, all our band students are reading musical notation. The beginners are just getting started, learning to decipher the written notes and translate them into correct fingerings and lip positions on their instruments. On the other hand, the already-fluent readers in the Continuing Band are now exploring deeper challenges: new notes, complex rhythms, and accidentals. Even through our two bands are in different places on the music reading spectrum, there is an easy strategy that can help all students strengthen their reading abilities–The Four Steps!

The Four Steps help students make connections among the written notes, their names, and how they’re played. Instead of guessing whether they’re playing the right notes, students who use these steps truly know “the whole story” about the music they play! When your child has trouble with his music, encourage him to isolate the problem spot, and:

Step 1. Count the rhythm.

Step 2. Say the names of the notes.

Step 3. Say the names of the notes, fingering them on the instrument.

Step 4. Play the piece.

Doing the Four Steps can be more time-consuming than just playing through a measure several times; however, it’s also a much more powerful way of practicing! Encourage your child to count for you, or say her pitches for you, in addition to playing her music. The more students practice making meaningful connections with written music, the better their reading–and playing–abilities will be!

09.09.18

Concert Coming Up – What Should I Do?

Posted in alston ridge events, concerts, helping your child succeed, what do I do?!? at 5:00 am by Administrator

How do I get ready for the concert?

It’s hard to believe, but our first concert of the year is coming up next month! For those of us who have never experienced a band concert before, it may be tough to know how to help our children get prepared. Even Continuing Band families may feel a little rusty on concert prep, since we haven’t had a concert in some time! So, here are some easy tips to help ensure that all our band students and families have a great Fall Concert experience.

1. Put it on your calendar! – Right now, please grab your calendar and make a note of your child’s show. Band performances are not optional events; rather, they are vital to your child’s musical education. When you make a commitment to attend your child’s performances, you not only model responsibility for your child, but you also show them that you care!

2. Get your concert clothes ready. – Remember, our students wear a standard outfit when performing. Our young ladies wear a white blouse, black pants or long skirt, and black shoes, and our young gentlemen wear a white button-down shirt, black slacks, and black shoes. To reduce the amount of pre-concert stress, purchase your child’s concert clothes NOW! If your child is in Continuing Band, remember that he or she may have grown since our last concert. Have your child try on her outfit early, so that you know long before the concert if your child needs any replacement clothes.

3. Encourage daily practice. – Nothing blasts away stage fright like preparedness. If your child practices 15 minutes per day, 5 days per week, he or she will be completely prepared to succeed on the concert, and will be more likely to have a fun and memorable experience.

09.02.18

Top Beginner Troubles – And How You Can Help!

Posted in beginners, helping your child succeed, practice at 5:00 am by Administrator

Beginning Band Challenges

The early weeks of Beginning Band are some of the toughest of a child’s musical career. Although students’ musical abilities tend to grow by leaps and bounds during during these early days, there are still some stubborn challenges that can frustrate even the most patient young musicians. Here are some challenges that your child might be facing right now in band…and practical ways you can help!

1. “I don’t want to practice!” - Getting into the routine of practice is a very real challenge for young musicians at this stage of their development. Parents, help your children get into a good practice habit by making practice time a non-negotiable part of your nightly routine–just like homework!

2. Brass players’ notes are too high, too low, or hard to play. - Brass players at this stage may be frustrated with the quality of the sounds coming out of their instruments. This is NORMAL, and will improve with consistent practice! Unlike other instruments whose sound comes from striking a surface or vibrating a reed with air, brass instruments’ sound comes solely from the vibrating of the player’s lips. Many young brass players’ facial muscles simply aren’t strong enough to create a beautiful tone just yet. Help your child by encouraging them to practice daily, and asking to hear some “rude mouthpiece noises.”

3. Clarinet squeaks! - One of the biggest challenges for clarinet players is getting the embouchure (mouth position) and the fingers “just right”, so that the notes come out full, not airy or squeaky. Encourage daily practice, and remind your child about “tight corners”, “fat fingers”, and “teeth on top”.

4. Air Head - Air Head is a common affliction that affects young flute players. Playing the flute requires more air than any other instrument, even the tuba! When a child is just starting to play the flute, he must inhale and exhale a great deal more air than he’s used to, and this can cause him to become dizzy or lightheaded. In the Wiley Band, we jokingly describe this dizzy feeling as “Air Head”! If your child gets air head during practice, encourage her to simply take a few moments to allow the Air Head to subside, and then resume playing. Over time, her body will become more accustomed to the demands of playing, and the bouts of Air Head will become fewer and farther between.

08.26.18

3 Easy Ways to Help Your Child Succeed in Band

Posted in helping your child succeed, practice at 5:00 am by Administrator

Drums

Our first week of band is complete! Our Beginner students know their way around their instruments, understand how to play at least 5 notes, and can play their first song, Hot Cross Buns. In Continuing Band, our students have done a great deal of precision work, polishing up their understanding of fingerings, technique, and music reading in preparation for a year full of challenging music. These are great successes for all our students! Now, our job as parents and teachers is to keep that success going. Here are 3 things you can do this week to support your child’s musical growth:

1. Find a place and time for your child to practice. When kids have a distraction-free place and a consistent time to play their instruments each day, practice becomes much easier and turns into a habit!

2. Ask your child to play for you. Even though your child won’t be able to play beautiful songs at this point in her musical development, it’s still important for her to have an appreciative audience. If you don’t understand what your child is doing, ask him to “teach” you–you may learn something about music you never knew, and you’ll give your child a big confidence boost!

3. Help your child with organization. To succeed in band, our children need to bring their music, stands, and instruments to rehearsal. With your child, create a plan to make being prepared for band rehearsal easier!

As always, if you have any questions, please e-mail Ms. Thompson. Have a fun and musical week!

08.19.18

Helping Your Child with Practice

Posted in helping your child succeed, parent connections, practice, videos at 5:00 am by Administrator

Want to learn some simple ways to help your child get started with a healthy practice habit? Check out this helpful video from Ms. Thompson’s Better Band Parent Series!

04.22.18

Summer – A HOT Time to Grow Musically!

Posted in helping your child succeed, practice, summer preparation at 5:00 am by Administrator

Summer sun

After a long year of playing in band class, many kids are tempted to stuff their instruments in the closet on the last day of school and leave them there until fall. Unfortunately, forgetting about one’s instrument over the summer can lead to needless frustration down the road. In this article, you’ll learn why summer is one of the best times to play music, and discover easy ways to grow as a musician when the weather’s hot.

Why play over the summer?
Musicians are athletes and strategic thinkers. We train our muscles to perform precise actions, and use our brains to do the detective work involved in fixing musical problems. When we use our musical skills, we make them stronger, sharper, and better. On the other hand, when we stop practicing, we become out-of-shape. Just like having to go on a diet after overeating on Thanksgiving is no fun, returning to music at the end of a practice-less summer is very frustrating! When you keep playing, you prevent yourself from growing a musical potbelly, and you build musical muscle with every note you play.

Practicing over the summer doesn’t just help you grow musically; it keeps your thinking skills polished as well. Playing music presents us with a variety of problems to solve, like “Why did I miss that note?” and “How is this supposed to go?” When you practice thoughtfully, you’re building valuable problem solving skills that can help you in many subjects besides music. By practicing, you’re actually preparing yourself to do well in school next year–no textbooks required!

Another reason to keep practicing is practical–to keep your instrument in good working order. Regular use keeps instruments healthy; when you don’t play your instrument for months on end, problems develop that can result in costly repairs. If the valves on a trumpet aren’t moved regularly, the oil dries up and the valves get stuck. Likewise, stashing a clarinet in the garage all summer can cause its pads to pop off, making it unplayable. Every fall, repair shops are flooded with instruments that are broken due to a summer of neglect. If you play all summer, though, you can save that repair money to buy something you’ll really enjoy.

Instruments aren’t the only things that suffer when left unused. Imagine your first day of band class after summer break. You take out your instrument just like you did last year, but something’s different. That pretty tone you developed last year is gone, and you’ve forgotten half your fingerings. The instrument that you once played easily now feels awkward in your hands. Discouraging, huh? Fortunately, this story doesn’t have to come true. If you choose to play over the summer, odds are you’ll return to school sounding GREAT!

How Parents Can Help
The first step to helping your child to practice over the summer is developing a positive outlook on summer practice, and communicating it to your child. Practicing over the summer doesn’t mean your child won’t be able to relax and enjoy the vacation; it just means he’ll spend a few minutes each day playing music. While practicing an instrument requires effort, it’s also a fun activity that doesn’t need to take up much time. If you present practice as a drudgery that will take all the fun out of summer, it’s likely that your child will put her instrument down. However, if you frame practice as a fun and creative activity, your child will be more likely to excitedly continue playing.

You may also want to talk to your child about the benefits of continuing to play music over the summer. Ask your child about her experiences this year in band class. Does she enjoy how she plays? Has he learned a lot? Then, introduce the summer as a great time to become even better at music, inviting your child to imagine how great she’ll sound after 3 more months of practice. If your child has a competitive streak, have him imagine what might happen on the first day of school if he practices and no one else does. What will the teacher’s face look like when she hears that wonderful sound? What will the other students say? Imagining positive outcomes can help motivate your child to keep practicing.

Another great way to motivate your child to practice over the summer is to augment your regular music lessons with fun musical camps. Many local music schools offer mini-camps that focus on different kinds of music. Camps like these give kids the opportunity to learn about new musical topics and styles in a fun atmosphere, and provide plenty of chances to make new friends. Also, universities like UNC-Greensboro offer weeklong band camps designed for young musicians. These camps are especially exciting for kids, because they allow them to meet new friends, play challenging music, and stay at a real college campus.

If you’re short on cash, just being there for your child can help. Encourage her to find a special time and place to practice, and make sure that you show your support of your child’s musical endeavors regularly. Consider having “concerts” at your house, where your child gets a chance to play for family and friends. If you have a recording device, try making recordings of your child playing a piece of music at the beginning of the summer. Then, at the end of the summer, help your child make another recording of the same piece. Make a point to watch or listen to both recordings side by side, and celebrate the progress your child has made by practicing over the summer.