Pedagogy and Products July 10, 2015

Monitoring the Pulse of Life. They are everywhere: those vibration-sensing wristbands that track steps, breathing, and movement and allow fitness buffs to keep monitor their performance throughout the day. So how about a wristband that helps musicians keep internal track of the beats or pulses just as an external metronome might? The inventors of the Soundbrenner Pulse, the first wearable SMART metronome, are betting their IndieGOGo campaign on just such a device.

Capitalizing on the fact that most musicians are bothered by external metronomes, feeling them to be a necessary evil (while effective as a practice aid, they can often lead to a favoring of technicality over musicality). Instead of playing along to an external beat, the Soundbrenner Pulse allows musicians to play along to an internal beat similar to foot tapping or other natural body movements which are a natural response to playing or listening to music. To use the device, the wearer simply taps in a beat; this beat is then reflected in flashing lights around the edges and a large center strobe, while simultaneously sending internal vibrations to the user. Other advantages of the Pulse include the ability to sync several devices to the same beat or change the tempo during performance. There is also a discreet mode which turns the lights off when desired. To view the video which presents additional details about the Soundbrenner Pulse or to contribute to the fund-raising campaign, click here.

Raising a Little Genius. As musicians, we know the story of little Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, touring Europe as a professional musician and composing great music as a very young child; we’ve also seen piano and violin prodigies on TV talent shows, whose fingers fly over the keys or strings of their instruments to bring this same beautiful music to life. What if I told you that perhaps there is no such thing as a natural music prodigy and that these children are instead the result of a dedicated and intensive practice routine and that their success just the result of having access to performance opportunities? Author Steven Brundage, writing in the article “The Art of Possibility" found in the June/July issue of American Music Teacher Magazine, feels that this might in fact be much closer to the truth.

Basing his research in part on the teachings or educational psychologist Laslò Pòlgàr who turned his children into chess “prodigies” and world champions via an intensive and rigorous training and education program in which they spent hours learning the principals of the game. While Pòlgar’s young daughters were viewed by the world as prodigies, the scientist said these results were instead achieved bit by bit, through rigorous practice routines and learning to overcome mistakes along the way.

Likewise, Steven Brundage believes that these same techniques and strategies can be employed to turn any child with basic musical skills into an advanced and extremely proficient player. “Perhaps child prodigies appear so extraordinarily gifted because they are compared to average children of the same age,” Brundage says. “Most children, and adults for that matter, never dedicate themselves to skill development with the same deliberateness, methodology and guidance of child prodigies because, in most cases, they lack the opportunity, guidance or motivation.”

To further illustrate his point, Brundage presents the cases of “late bloomers” such as Mark Twain and Vincent Van Gogh who didn’t achieve success until late in their adult years. The author explains that although these individuals had always possessed an innate artistic talent, they only achieved success after they were presented with the educational and performance opportunities which allowed these talents to flourish.

With regard to music performance however, there are indeed other mental abilities which can contribute to excellence; one of these is a somewhat higher than average IQ, which can serve as an aid to memorization. Another of these is nimbleness and strength of the fingers. However, while these factors can aid a performer in developing musical skills, they are not a necessity for proficiency. Rather, Brundage feels that rigorous daily practice and having opportunities to perform are of greater value. So, don’t give up on that recital preparation or neglect your daily practice. There might just be a musical genius inside of you who is struggling to get out! Find the full article here The website of the Music Teacher’s National Association also offers lots of tips for teachers, students, and parents. Check it out by clicking here.

New Guitars from Martin. The C. F. Martin guitar company will be introducing four new guitar models at this year’s NAMM convention in Nashville, TN. The new models include an addition to the company’s retro line, Model 00-15E, an acoustic-electric, non-cutaway model with solid mahogany top back and sides and an exclusive, 15-sunburst design; CS-D41-15 Dreadnought, a 14-fret, non-cutaway style with Sitka spruce top and Martin’s new Vintage Tone System; the LE Cowboy 315, with an exclusive watercolor painting on the front by famed cowboy artist William Matthews; and the SS-0041-15 which also features the Vintage Tone System and has an Adirondack spruce top with cinnamon sunburst design. For detailed specs and prices, click on the link for Martin’s latest press release here.

A Fun Voice Technique. Voice teachers are fond of using innovative and creative exercises in the classroom to warm up their students and develop vocal agility, but here’s one you might not have tried and might just be the most fun of all. Remember how as a child you loved to blow bubbles into your milk glass? While Mom might not have approved, it turns out that blowing bubbles through a straw into liquid is an excellent way to relieve vocal stress and strengthen the voice. In a post written by Julia Belluz on the website Vox Vocal Health, the author explains how this seemingly silly drill can work wonders for a tired or stressed voice.

According to Belluz, the technique has roots in traditional European voice training and has been known to vocal coaches for more than 100 years. Another similar technique is to hum through the straw. Both drills can help to relax and stretch out the vocal folds and increase range. So what are you waiting for? Pour yourself a big glass of ice-cold chocolate milk and start blowing bubbles! The complete blog post can be found here. Make sure to stay tuned for more great ideas and products here in the Falls Music School Blog by subscribing to your newsletter here! If you want to connect with us even more for more great content, you can also follow us at the social media addresses below: Facebook Twitter Google+ Pinterest Keep Learning!

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