Besides being fun, learning and playing a musical instrument can have many positive effects on your health and mental wellness. Research shows that these benefits can occur at any age and come from playing any instrument. Keep reading to see why people are playing instruments to improve their general health.
Stress Relief – Playing an instrument can help refocus bad energy into something positive and enjoyable, which in turn can help alleviate stress. Reduced stress levels lead to slowing down your heart rate and lowering your blood pressure. Research shows that playing and composing music can reduce stress by lowering cortisol levels.
Improves respiratory system – Whether you’re singing show tunes or blowing into a saxophone or oboe, one of the most important things you can learn is how to breathe properly. Producing a good sound on any wind instrument is dependent on your breath, making breathing with the proper technique a must. So while you are in the pursuit of becoming a great singer or woodwind player you are actually also improving your respiratory system.
Exercise – Playing an instrument can be a great form of physical activity. Playing the piano, guitar or drums takes a lot of upper body strength and playing for extended periods of time can help build muscle while also improving your posture and increasing your stamina.
Improves Cognitive Performance – It has been shown that playing and listening to music can help improve memory in people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Playing music has even been shown to help people recover from strokes as well as slow down the onset of dementia and Alzheimers.
Improved Immune System -Research between Tenovus Cancer Care and the Royal College of Music has found that singing for an hour can increase levels of immune proteins, reduce stress and improve people’s mood. Studies have also shown that making music enhances the immunological response, which enables us to fight viruses.
One of the challenges we encounter with our students on a weekly basis is getting them to practice. No one expects a young student to practice their instruments on their own every day without some reminding and encouragement from their parents. So here are a few easy things you can do to get your child practicing and improving on their instruments.
- Timer : Use a stopwatch to set time goals for practicing. We have found that students will focus better when there is a goal set for them. Start off with something easy, like 15 minutes everyday, then slowly increase the time. Eventually students will start playing beyond the allotted time and find a sense of accomplishment from beating their old time.
- Routine: Pick a time during the day either before or after school and keep it the same every day of the week. Having a daily set music time gets them into a routine and makes music part of their day.
- Encourage: Beginner students need a lot of positive reinforcement. Sometimes listening to a beginning saxophone, violin or even piano student can be a little painful to start, but if you give positive feedback the student will be more likely to stick with it, practice and eventually improve drastically.
- Goals: Setting clear goals for practicing is very important. If a student has no reason to play their instrument they are likely going to be resistant to practicing it. Set up family recitals every month where your child can play in your home for family members and friends. Our students love playing for people and having an upcoming performance always drives kids to practice with focus.
- Amazing Teacher: In our opinion this is probably one of the most important tools in getting your child to practice their musical instrument. Having a talented teacher who motivates, encourages and inspires will surely keep students practicing. We feel that music teachers should be experts and always be playing at the lessons to get kids excited about music!
So you’ve wisely decided to schedule your first in home music lesson. What took you so long? While your child is accessing a part of their brain they didn’t even know existed, you’ve been given the gift of time, so make good use of it!
Since you’re used to schlepping all over the city for various activities, here are some helpful hints to prepare you for in-home instruction.
Set aside a well-lit place in your house where the lesson can take place without interruption. A ringing phone, a TV, an oven timer, a conversation in the next room, or a barking dog become little distractions that are hard to ignore, especially when students are working on rhythms and counting. I’m not saying you need to replicate Abbey Road Studios, but you do need to create a nice, quiet comfortable space.
Speaking of dogs, if you own Cujo, please warn us ahead of time. Most of us don’t mind your pets but it’s always great to know what we are walking into.
Be ready. I keep a pen, pencil and my kids’ music books on the piano and 5 minutes before the teacher arrives, I ask them to turn on the lights and open their books. Yes, it actually takes my 8-year old twin boys 5 minutes to do that. I also remind them to go the bathroom before the lesson starts!
Have a chair for the teacher, a pen, pencil, metronome, tuner, picks, strings, music stand if needed, extra reeds, extra drum-sticks, and basically any materials required to maintain the particular instrument.
You’re paying for our time and we want to make each and every minute count for you, so make sure as soon as we get there your child is ready to learn and we’ll take care of the rest!
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The guitar comes in three types, classical with nylon strings, acoustic with steel strings and electric with steel strings and pickups to electrify the sound. Within that, there are literally thousands of options of styles and colors. And they come in all shapes and sizes. From Jimmy Page’s double neck, Jerry Garcia’s Tiger, BB King’s beloved Lucille and Willie Nelson’s Trigger, there are plenty of guitars out there to satisfy your musical appetite.
But what about that six year old who’s thinking about starting lessons? I don’t think you’re running out to buy The Flying V just yet. So where do you start? Let the pros at Music to Your Home be your guide. Our first piece of advice is don’t go out and buy the most expensive guitar on the rack. It’s not necessary at this point. As the student progresses, you’ll know when it’s time to make a bigger investment, but for now you can get a decent set up for under $200.00.
For beginners there are generally three sizes of guitars to choose from, full size, ¾ size, and half size. Here’s a breakdown but remember, the only true way to get the right fit is to head to a store and try one in person.
The half size guitar is great for kids ages 3-6. The ¾ should work well for 6-10 year olds. Finally, the full size should cover you after that, but be aware that there are variations of regular size guitars, so once again, hold one and see how it feels!
Now that you have an idea of size, let’s discuss string type. Nylon strings are much easier to push down on and softer on little fingers and many of our teachers would suggest starting on those. If steel strings are preferred, go for it, but know that it will take a while to build up the calluses that all guitar players eventually develop.
Is your child a lefty? There are a couple of lefty guitars out there, however, like baseball mitts, the choices are much fewer. You can also learn to play right handed, or string a righty guitar upside down. Many lefties simply adapt, and learn to play righty.
Don’t forget the accessories too – stand, tuner, case, picks, and an amp for your little shredder if needed.
Whatever guitar your child ends up with, our instructors can teach them how to tune it, care for it and hopefully, one day, play your favorite song on it!
Image courtesy of Iamnee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Ever hear the saying pee clear, sing wet? We know it sounds gross. But think about it. Last time you drank a glass of milk didn’t it feel like you had, well, a glass of milk stuck in your throat? This obviously will not help with your vocal technique but here are some insightful tips from the pros that will.
Hydrate! We are all constantly bombarded with calls to hydrate and we’re jumping on the bandwagon too. 8-10 glasses of water a day. Sing wet.
Rest! Yes, resting is good for your body and your voice. Fatigue will not help you nail The Queen of the Night aria by Mozart.
Humidify! Dry air? Fix it. Grab a humidifier and use it at night. Steam showers are another great remedy for staying moist.
Eat well! Melons promote hydration. Fruits loaded with antioxidants are great for overall vocal function. Fried foods and spicy foods are not.
Warm up! Do your vocal warm-ups before you hit the stage, start your lessons, or jam with friends. At this point, if you don’t know this, call us ASAP and we will send you a voice teacher directly to your home to show you proper vocal exercises!
There are also some over the counter remedies out there. Try Singer’s Saving Grace, a throat spray that soothes throat dryness. Enjoy a spot of tea now and then? Indulge in Throat Coat Tea, which according to its description, “helps you sing it loud, say it proud, stand up and be heard.” Keep any of these items near your piano during your NYC voice lesson and you’re guaranteed to impress your teacher!
Learning to care for your voice and use it properly at an early age will definitely help you avoid the dreaded nodes we hear so many pop stars battling with today. Take good care of your body, take good care of your instrument. It’s simple, pee clear, sing wet.
Image courtesy of Pixomar at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
We know you’ve been eagerly awaiting the letter from your child’s school with their new teacher for the year, but summer is almost over and you haven’t heard yet. There is another exciting piece of mail headed your way – one that we get particularly thrilled about – instrument selection.
For some of you the choice will come easy, as your child may already be studying an instrument. If that’s you – we think you’re cool! If not, we still think you’re cool simply because you are reading this. Anyway…
If you have no idea where to begin, let us be your guide. Most schools offer four different categories of instruments you can choose from.
Woodwinds: This family of instruments includes flute, clarinet, saxophone, oboe, bassoon and piccolo. These instruments are generally small and easy to transport in a school bus, car or can be carried by kids who walk to school. Playing one of these instruments can also lead to your child being included in the concert band, marching band, jazz band or school orchestra. Some schools offer the recorder the year before introducing woodwind instruments to familiarize students with holding an instrument and using their breath and body to produce sound. The other good thing about woodwind instruments is that they come in many different sizes. So if your child is not physically able to handle a large tenor sax – the flute or clarinet may be more suitable.
Brass: This group includes the trumpet, French horn, trombone, and tuba. These instruments will also lead to being part of concert bands, marching bands, jazz bands and orchestras. I’m not going to lie… these can be loud! But with patience and practice they can be very rewarding to play and listen to. These instruments can also be transported pretty easily with the exception of the tuba. Brass instruments also come in many different sizes giving a variety of students different choices.
Strings: The string family features the violin, viola, cello and double bass. These are my favorites! These instruments are more geared for playing in the school orchestra but can always be used in other ensembles as well. Generally the violin and viola can be transported on a bus but cellos and basses may need to be driven to school or lessons. One of the great things about the string group is that each one comes in different sizes from half size to full size so even the smallest student can learn to play an instrument like the cello or double bass.
Percussion: This family has the snare drum, drum set, timpani, cymbals, and xylophone. Generally, beginners learn how to play using a drum pad, which looks like a snare drum but is muted so it has very little sound. You’re welcome for that tidbit! Most elementary schools only offer the snare and bass drum to start and eventually add in the other percussion instruments as the students get into middle and high school. Most schools have these instruments so transporting is not generally an issue. Drum pads or electric drums can be kept at home for practicing.
Most schools offer lessons on these instruments one time a week in a group setting. Adding in a private lesson with one of our teachers will definitely give any student a real advantage and help them learn and master their instruments much faster.