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    Playing in a Virtual Band


    What if you played in a band but never once shook the hand of your drummer or only saw the pixelated version of your lead singer’s face? What if the only thing that kept your band together was the power of technology?

    We were intrigued by the notion of a virtual band after we read a proposal by musicians Harley Cross and Lauren Turk of The New History. They’re vying for a $100,000 prize from the Goldhirsh Foundation’s LA2050 campaign and proposed a tech-centered way of educating kids about music. With their Play With Music Platform, school children would receive music education as well as basic training in audio engineering and sound design and apply their new skills by playing in a virtual band.

    “Imagine kids in South LA creating ‘virtual bands’ with kids from Beverly Hills, interacting together to build something they love, with musicians they mutually admire,” the proposal states.

    We’re passionate about exposing children to the power and beauty of music and glad there are people like Cross and Turk to lead the way.

    We were also intrigued about the viability of a virtual band. We know this isn’t a new idea. Rappers Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre performed songs with deceased rapper Tupac at Coachella a few years ago and that is certainly a type of virtual musical performance. Also, several bands rehearse in different locations thanks to providers like JamLink. However, has any band existed solely in cyberspace? Would you want to be in a virtual band? Recently, we wrote a blog post about how human-generated music is preferred over machine-powered beats because of mistakes in reading the music.  Indeed, it’s the minor mistakes that make music captivating. We think this will continue to be an issue as technology advances and we’re excited to see how it evolves!

    Learn more about the LA2050 campaign and, while you’re there, vote for your favorite proposal.

    The Music Junction offers piano and voice lessons at our Burbank and Hollywood locations. Call us  to learn more.

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    Study Music … Become a Doctor

    Next time you want to break the ice with your doctor, mention Mozart instead of the weather.

    An often-cited study indicates that 66 percent of music majors who applied to medical school were accepted, compared to only 44 percent of biochemistry majors.

    We’re not totally surprised by this news. A few years ago, a member of The Music Junction attended a cyber security conference —  yes, we have varied interests at The Music Junction — and learned something interesting during a panel discussion.  A graduate student in attendance wondered aloud if her undergraduate music degree would set her back as she attempted to switch careers. A representative from the National Security Agency assured she had nothing to worry about. Many people in the NSA also have music degrees.

    Indeed, musicians are everywhere!

    It’s hard to pinpoint why music majors are so appealing to medical schools. We know that practicing music stimulates neural activity and enhances spatial-temporal skills that makes problem solving easier. Or could the reason be that musicians are generally better test-takers and simply scored higher on the MCAT, the required test to gain admittance into medical school? Or is being a musician an indication of a good work ethic, which is appealing to medical schools? What do you think?

    The Music Junction offers piano and voice lesson at our Burbank and Hollywood studios. Call us today to learn more.

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    Music That Shakes, Rattles and Rolls

    With earthquakes in the news again, we’ve had tremblers on our mind.

    We should always be informed on the best ways to be safe during an earthquake but it’s also useful to learn about earthquakes from a different perspective.  A small group of geophysicists from the U.S. Geological Survey decided to tell the story of earthquakes not through dense scientific terms but through music.

    That’s right! Music.

    After all, when we describe earthquakes to others we talk about it in the form of sounds including comparisons to the roar of a big-rig truck or the boom of a thunderstorm.

    “It’s almost as if the earth is a musician and people, including seismologists, are the audience who must try to understand what the music means,” the USGS writes on its website.

    Earthquake Quartet #1 — originally conceived in February 2000 — features trombone, cello, voice and seismograms (recordings of the ground moving), to create a unique musical composition. The piece opens with a trombone mimicking the movement of plates, the buildup of tension and the subsequent release of that tension. The music progresses to a more upbeat tempo meant to replicate society resuming its normalcy  even as more seismic  activity takes place. It’s a useful reminder that we often live with the sounds of earthquakes in our day-to-day life, we just don’t recognize it.

    We also like that the geophysicists haven’t stopped playing music. It is another useful reminder on the connection of music education and the development of math and science skills.

    Listen to the recording and let us know what you think!

    The Music Junction offer piano and voice lessons at our Burbank and Hollywood locations.

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    A Majority of Americans Have Received Music Education

    Arts organizations and music educators — including us —  have lauded the benefits of music education for several years.

    It appears that people are listening, according to a survey published by The Harris Poll last month, which revealed that this country is filled musical minds.

    Three-quarters of Americans 18 years old or older reported that they have received music education when they were young. The education ranged from singing in the school choir to joining a garage band to taking private lessons. A majority of people who studied music believe it had a positive impact in their lives – personal and professional — even if they have stopped practicing. A majority of people said that music was extremely or very important in imparting useful skills such as working toward a common goal and striving for individual excellence in a group setting.

    It’s also worthwhile to note that those who did not receive music education also believe in its transformative power. Both adults who did and did not study music agreed that the learning and habits of music equipped people to become better team players (71 percent), provided a disciplined approach to solving problems (67 percent) and prepared people to manage the tasks of their job more successfully (66 percent).

    The Harris Poll researchers wondered whether programs like “Glee” have spurred an interest in music education. Glee and a slew of others shows including “The Voice,” “America’s Got Talent” and “The X Factor” showcase young talent and it could motivate others to pursue music. What do you think? We may never know the cause but we’re glad so many people already understand the benefits of music training.

    Whether you are 4 or 97, now is the perfect time to reap the benefits of music lessons. The Music Junction offers piano and voice lessons from its Burbank and Hollywood locations. Call today to learn more.

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    The Four Notes Heard Around The World

    Dig beneath the dominating sounds of string instruments. Ignore the Autotune treatments of today’s pop tunes.

    What if the fundamental elements of a good song in one genre is the same as a good song in another?

    David Garland of WNYC’s “Spinning on Air” lists 50 songs — from Mozart to Green Day — to show that good music throughout history has a common DNA. He believes that many songs use a four-note sequence i-bVII-bVI-V (or, in the key of A, the descending sequence A, G, F, E), known as the Andalusian Cadence. Garland also contends it’s the world most-used musical sequence.

    Readers in the comments section to Garland’s story willingly add more examples of the Andalusian cadence and it becomes very apparent that the cadence’s popularity exceeds more than 50 songs.

    Garland is quick to note that he does not think the Andalusian Cadence is a victim of intellectual theft or banality. Rather, he thinks that musicians are discovering and rediscovering this musical sequence all the time.

    “Probably some of the musicians whose music I’m playing tonight would be surprised to hear how common this music sequence really is,” he said. “I don’t mean to say it’s commonplace, it’s got a special magic to it.”

    Garland plays many of the 50 songs on his list and it’s a great treat to hear so many diverse tunes including those that normally wouldn’t make the radio or your online playlist. It’s also an opportunity to put your music knoweldge to the test. Can you hear the Andalusian Cadence in each of these songs?

    Do you want to have a deeper understanding of music theory? The Music Junction offers piano and voice lessons in Burbank and Hollywood and is staffed with educators who are skilled at training novices  as well as accomplished musicians and singers. Call today to learn more.
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    Bee Alert: Middle C is the World’s Pollinator!

    Every spring bees make their way around to all the blossoming flowers to pollinate nature for us – but did you know the key to doing it is by making music?

    The wings of bumblebees cause flowers to release their pollen by beating at a frequency that causes the part of the flower that produces pollen – the “anther” – to vibrate.   This is necessary to successfully pollinate in some flowers – like those of tomatoes, peppers, cranberries & blueberries.  They must be vibrated or shaken, similar to the action of a salt shaker.

    To do this, the bumblebee arrives at it’s flower making a high-pitched buzzing noise with its wings.   As it gets closer to the pollen, the bee continues beating its wings BUT lowers the frequency so that the note of it’s buzz suddenly falls to approximately Middle C. This causes the “anther” part of the flower to vibrate at just the right frequency needed for the flower to release the pollen, and for the grains to spout out of the hole at the top, like a yellow fountain.

    To a musician, this means the sound wave for Middle C vibrates at just the right frequency to release pollen from flowers!  That makes Middle C nature’s best friend.

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    Watch Junji Play an Apple!

    Japanese school teacher Junji Koyama has become world-famous for making musical instruments out of fruits and vegetables and posting YouTube performances of his work.  Junji has performed on every kind of fruit or vegetable you can think of – apples, pineapples, strawberries, limes, cactus, carrots, radishes, broccoli, cucumbers – a full orchestra of edible instruments.

    Originally, Junji’s work was exclusive to vegetables, until the world’s largest self-serve frozen yogurt brand, Tutti Frutti, approached him to do a commercial campaign using instruments made out of fruit.  This video is from that campaign.  Junji plays an apple, accompanied by a mechanical monkey on cymbals.  The monkey has a rhythm of his own, slowing down halfway through the song, and Junji lets the monkey be the band leader, following it’s varying tempos in this cute clip.

    Mr. Koyama is basically a very clever flute maker – his fruits and vegetables are all various forms of flutes.   A flute makes sound when breath is sent into the flute, and the air stream travels down the piping. The air stream hits against the side of the flute, which makes the stream move and create a sound. To change the pitch of the flute, you simply lift up fingers or cover more finger holes. This changes the frequency of the sound waves, creating a different pitch.  If a flute has no holes, which is the case with some of Junji’s instruments, then it will always play the same pitch.  With those types of flutes, Junji sometimes creates multiple replicas of the instrument that each have a different pitch, so that he can blow on them in varying order to create different melodies.

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    How to Compliment a Child: “You’re a Hard Worker” versus “You’re Smart”

    Parents and Teachers all agree that they would like children to correlate their success at school to how much work they put in.  So that, for example, a child who fails a spelling test will think “I didn’t study hard enough, I’ll work harder next time.”

    But often when our children fail a test they think “I failed so I must be a bad speller.” or “I must be stupid.”

    You can see how important it can be to encourage children to value their effort, instead of feeling inherently smart (or not smart) regardless of their effort.  This was the basis of a study done by Carol S. Dweck, one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of motivation, in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

    In the experiment Dweck has conducted, two groups of children were asked to put together a relatively easy jigsaw puzzle.  After completing the puzzle, the two groups received different compliments. Every child in the first group was told: “You’re very smart, well-done”. The children in the second group were told something like: “You’ve put a lot of effort and thought into this, well-done”.  And then, they could choose another puzzle that was either harder or easier than the first. In the group that was complimented for smartness, 70% of the children chose the easy puzzle. In the other group, which was complimented for investment, 70% of the children chose the difficult puzzle, which, they were told, was also more interesting.

    Teachers at the Music Junction utilize this important tool when working with our students.  Students are rewarded for effort by logging their practices between lessons and receiving sticker rewards based on how many practices the student achieved that week.  We encourage our piano and voice students to achieve their full potential, instead of general benchmark goals that are the same for everyone, so that the focus is on doing your best.  Private piano lessons are particularly helpful to illustrate how hard work correlates to success.  The more time a student puts into learning a piece of music, the better they sound – and vice versa.

    At the Music Junction recitals, we reiterate to the student how their effort in preparation directly relates to their performance.   If the student is able to play their recital piece perfectly almost every time in the days leading up to the performance, they have a good shot at playing it perfectly at the recital.  If the student is always playing or singing their song with some mistakes in the days leading to their performance, they are about 100% guaranteed to have a mistake at the recital.  Of course, we created a nurturing environment at our bi-annual Music Junction recitals, where making a mistake should not feel like a tragedy.  But emphasizing the student’s control over how well they play in their performance by how prepared they were in advance is an important lesson to the child that when you work hard, you can achieve more.

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    See the Vocal Cords in Action

    Even though we speak throughout every day, most of us aren’t aware of how our voice actually makes sound.  Knowing how vocal sound is created gives us a great insight into singing, and can be very useful to make sure we are creating sound healthfully.

    Our voice makes sound in the same way all sound is made – through vibration.  We have two vocal cords, also called vocal folds, that vibrate when the breath passes them during exhalation.  These two membranes can stretch out to become long and thin and make high sounds, or shrink to become short and thick and make low sounds.  They can relax and separate from each other to allow normal breathing, zip up against each other to vibrate and make a sound, and vibrate a little farther away from each other to create a sound with breathiness (think Norah Jones).

    Everyone interested in singing should know this in order to avoid certain vocal “traps” such as trying to engage additional muscles outside of the two vocal folds to make sound.  For example, you do not need to use the throat or tongue muscles to create sound, those muscles should be completely relaxed.  Only these two little vocal folds create sound, with the aid of the breath passing through them to make them vibrate, so any other muscles getting involved just creates unnecessary tension.

    This image lays out the location of the vocal cords in the body:

    Vocal cords

    Location of the vocal folds, also known as vocal cords, in the body.


    In the above video, Miriam van Mersbergen, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at Northern Illinois University and a professionally trained singer, speaks with John Consalvi, MA, CEO of Lingua Health about the Vocal Cords.  Miriam shares a video of her Vocal Cords in action with John and discusses how the structures and movement of the cords affect the pitch and quality of the voice.

    At the Music Junction, we think it’s important to be transparent with students about what we are doing in their voice lessons.  We want voice students to understand the whole picture of how their voice works, and how it can be enhanced.  We explain not just the how, but the why, of the vocal exercises we recommend.  The Music Junction focus is on laying down a strong, thorough, vocal foundation with students, making sure they can access all the different abilities of the human voice.  As a voice student becomes more advanced, they can start to choose which sounds, resonances, and textures they want to combine to make their unique sound.  With our help developing a wide range of vocal possibilities, the student has a large palate to choose from.  Understanding what vocal folds are and how they work is one integral part of having a comprehensive understanding of your voice.

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    Music Benefits Language Development of Children ages 2-9

    A child’s brain is going through constant stages of development, so parents want to find the best activities to have a positive impact on these developmental years.  The pressure is on, because being able to enhance brain development can have a lifetime impact on the child.

    Research shows that musical training physically develops the part of the left side of the brain known to be involved with processing language, and can actually wire the brain’s circuits in specific ways.  Having enhanced language skills gives a child the advantage of being able to read and understand speech more easily – which has an enormous impact on their ability to learn.  This means music education is an invaluable benefit to a child’s development – enhancing the brain in a way that will put them ahead for years to come.  This makes music lessons an attractive option for parents who want to expose their children to activities that benefit the mind.

    In 2008, a study done with 32 nonmusician children over 9 months showed the affect of music education on speech and reading abilities.  The students were assigned to music or to painting training for 6 months.  Those who studied music showed enhanced reading and pitch discrimination abilities in speech.  Only 6 months of training significantly influenced the development of those neural processes in the brain.   The abstract of the study records how “These results reveal positive transfer from music to speech and highlight the influence of musical training. Finally, they demonstrate brain plasticity in showing that relatively short periods of training have strong consequences on the functional organization of the children’s brain.”

    According to an article by PBS.org, “Linking familiar songs to new information can also help imprint information on young minds.  Additionally, this relationship between music and language development is also socially advantageous to young children.  According to Dr. Kyle Pruett, clinical professor of child psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine and a practicing musician, “Language competence is at the root of social competence. Musical experience strengthens the capacity to be verbally competent.”

    So exposing a child to music lessons does more than provide a great activity and build an appreciation for music, it also changes the course of their brain development to provide enhancements that will affect them the rest of their lives.

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