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    Using sound waves to levitate objects

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    Think levitation is only a magician’s trick?

    Although you may not have learned this in your high school science class, the ability to make tiny particles float in the air is possible.

    The ability to rise in the air through the power of sound, also known as acoustic levitation, is not new. Scientists have been performing this act since the 1940s. However, a group of Japanese researchers have recently mastered three-dimensional levitation, making it possible to float an object up and down and side to side. You can see the levitation in action in the video above, which also provides a great tutorial on the science behind it.

    Scientists discovered that if they perfectly align ultrasonic sound speakers they can create sound waves that exert pressure. This pressure cancels out the effects of gravity. They can make the particles move in different directions by changing the strength of the sound waves. Fortunately for scientists, the sounds waves are slightly above the normal human hearing range, which is beneficial in applying this discovery to the real world. Unfortunately for musicians, we are unlikely to replicate levitation through our own music making.

    The advancement of 3D acoustic levitation provides many benefits beyond creating an intriguing YouTube video. Acoustic levitation could help scientists keep chemical mixtures pure in stem cell research and advance antigravity experiments in space.

     

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    50 Years of Batman Music

    The Batman franchise has entertained audiences over the years from the campy television show of the 1960s to the dark cinematic thrillers that garner Oscar nominations. Yet, the one element that remains constant is the iconic music.

    A new YouTube video condenses 50 years of Batman music into an entertaining 4-minute track, sampling “Batman Theme” by Neal Hefti, “The Batman Theme” by Danny Elfman, and “Like a Dog Chasing Cars” by Hans Zimmer. Each sample is performed on sets — or in one case, a rooftop — that mimics the look and feel of each movie. As an added bonus for movie fans, they include replica Batmobiles for each rendition.

    The video was created by The Piano Guys — a Utah-based group that oddly has only one piano player. It has become an Internet sensation and if you look at the video you’ll see why!

    The Piano guys have created several popular YouTube videos over the years including a classical version of Bruno Mars’ “Just the Way You Are” and a pop version of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony thanks to a little help from OneRepublic.

    We also love how this video captures how much fun the musicians are having. They love playing music, which is something that can be inspiring for the young musician in your life.

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

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    4 Tips To Conquering Nerves At A Recital

    Anyone who has studied at The Music Junction for some length of time has performed at a recital. We think it’s a great way to apply skills learned in class and help our students realize that music-making should be a fun, social act.

    We also know that recitals can make some students — from the young to the old — nervous. We’re here to help!

    Here are 4 Ways to conquer nerves at a recital:

    1. Accept the Fear: The body manifests fear in very specific ways that can affect a musician’s performance. Increased air pressure under the vocal cords can pose a challenge for a singer and stiffening of the body can make a pianist’s fingers less agile. If the fear sets in just before a performance the worst thing to do is ignore the feelings, says Voice Council Magazine:

    “One has to accept the nerves and the physical repercussions, and work within this state rather than trying to push it away. The more you try to block the nerves, the more they will affect you.”

    2. Practice, Practice, Practice: Accepting nerves does not mean they cannot be overcome. Knowing the music goes a long way to feeling confident performing in front of others. In addition to consistent practicing at home, work with your instructor to ensure that the assigned piece is at an appropriate level — something that is challenging but not overly difficult.

    3. Dress Rehearsals are Key: Turn the living room into a performance space and invite mom, dad, sister and brother, even the beloved family pet, to a special performance.  Make the performance as real as possible, including walking on stage and bowing, even wearing the performance outfit, advises NPR.

    4. Wishing you Success: The Music Junction community, and many other music schools, offers a positive community. Realize that everyone in the room wants the best possible performance from every musician and everyone is rooting for each other.

    What do you think of our suggestions? Do you have any tips or routines that work for you?

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

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

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    Artist Nick Pitera -The Popularity of Countertenors

    Nick Pitera belts out high notes that would make Adele proud and Lady Gaga drool.

    He has been a YouTube sensation for several years, singing both the male and female roles for Broadway musicals and Disney cartoons and, in the process, has amassed fans without being a signed artists. His ability to reach the C5 octave has even caused chatter online with people wondering if his videos are altered.

    His singing is real and he’s not alone. Pitera is part of a small group of male singers whose vocal folds open and close while singing and whose voice sounds full and natural in high registers. They are known as countertenors and many others have reached career success, especially in the classical world, including Philippe Jaroussky, Bejun Mehta and Andreas Scholl.

    Very few male singers are able to reach such high octaves. Although the pop landscape is full of talented men singing high notes including Smokey Robinson, Justin Timberlake and Adam Levine, they sing in falsetto and are not countertenors. Falsetto singers typically have a breathy voice and their vocal folds remain open while they’re hitting high notes.

    Vocal instructors offer several breathing exercises and techniques to help singers extend their octave range in a way that’s safe and doesn’t hurt the vocal folds or cords. Call us today to learn more.

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    Think You’re Not A Good Singer? Science Offers Good News For Those Who Are Out Of Tune

    There is something about using the body’s own musical instrument — your voice — that evokes fears in so many people.

     How many times have you seen people at church or a baseball games mouth the words to a song instead of singing it out loud? How many times have people avoided singing publicly by calling themselves a “shower singer”?

    Here at The Music Junction,  we firmly believe that a mixture of training and confidence can make any person a good singer. It just take times and practice.

    Still, if you’re in need of an extra confidence boost, we have some news to inspire you. It’s called the vocal generosity effect.

    According to a scientific study, people are more forgiving of singing errors compared to other musical instruments including the violin. Researcher Sean Hutchins asked test subjects to listen to a melody from a violin and one from a singer. They were then asked to determine if the last note was in tune or out of tune. When a singer was a semitone off — in other words, singing the wrong note — less than 50 percent of the subjects noticed. When a violin player was a semitone off nearly 75 percent of the people noticed. The laxness in judging the human voice also applies to those with music training. Although people with musical training were more apt to notice a note out of tune, the study found that they also favored the singer over the violinist.

    What is the reasoning behind this? No one, including researchers, are quite sure.

    However, PsychCentral reported that the researchers had one theory: “One possibility is that when we hear a human voice, our perceptual system moves in to a ‘vocal mode’ that pays less attention to pitch.”

    You can listen to some samples of violin and vocal melodies that are in tune and out of tune. Go ahead and test yourself!

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

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    The Ultimate YouTube Mashup Video

    The artist who gained fame by composing original works of music using YouTube videos is back at it again and promising more tunes soon.

    The latest song from Israel-based artist Kutiman is called “Give It Up” and includes more than 20 different clips from amateur artists playing the bassoon, piano and cello as well as featuring an acapella singer.  In his official YouTube page, Kutiman cites his sources and it’s worth clicking on the original works just to see the how much effort goes into creating an original piece of music. The music is also a worthwhile listen!

    Kutiman first became famous of pioneering this type of YouTube mashup five years ago with “ThruYou” and another song in the “ThruYou Too” series is set to be released Oct. 1.

    Apparently, making this type of music is painfully time consuming.

    According to a Billboard article: “In the past year, Kutiman decided to start working on ThruYou Too, which he estimates took him about three or four months to put together. ‘I open 20 tabs of bass players and see if something sounds like it works,’ he says. ‘It’s just searching for improvisation or whatever. If I have free time I just sit and watch YouTube. if I’m looking for a guitar player, eventually I’ll find myself watching people playing guitars for the rest of the night.’”

    Check out the video and let us know what you think!

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

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    Celebrating Fall With Vivaldi

    Happy first day of autumn!

    For us, autumn makes us think of the smells of baked pumpkin and warm apple cider and the sights of dark nights and wind blowing through trees.

    But what does fall sound like?

    There are no shortage of online playlists focused on this season. You can listen to some here, here and here.

    We think, however, that autumn belongs to Antonio Vivaldi, the Italian baroque composer who penned the wildly successful “The Four Seasons.” The violin concertos are so deeply embedded in modern culture that all of us are familiar with the song even if we don’t regularly listen to classical music.

    To celebrate the first day of fall, we are shedding some light into the Autumn portion of “The Four Seasons.” Next time you’re listening to this music consider these interesting facts:

    1. Vivaldi published  “The Four Seasons” in 1725.

    2. “The Four Seasons” title was not the original name. Instead is was simply referred to as “Op. 8” and belonged to a larger set of 12 concertos known in English as “The Contest Between Harmony and Invention.”

    3. It was immediately disliked by the public who thought it was too modern and gimmicky.

    4. A sonnet — most likely penned by Vivaldi — accompanies each concerto, to help listeners understand the meaning of the music. The autumn sonnet begins with peasants celebrating a bountiful harvest. The celebration then turns into drunkenness and a long slumber. The final stanza centers on wild animals unsuccessfully evading hunters. You can read the full text of the sonnet here.

    5. Each season follows the same pattern: fast-slow-fast. Or, in more musical terms allegro-adagio molto-allegro.

     

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    Helping Veterans Through Music

    They’ve seen the worst of atrocities fighting in a war and returned home after enduring life-changing injuries.

    Now, they’re moving on with their lives with the help of music.

    We were inspired to see this CNN story about MusiCorps, a music rehabilitation program that helps military veterans learn, or in some cases re-learn, music with the help of professional musicians. MusiCorps also launched its own music group, known as the Wounded Warrior Band, which plays throughout the country including at the Grand Ole Opry, with Yo Yo Ma and with the Kansas City Symphony.

    “I’ve seen guys come in here, and they’re going through such a tough time with their injuries that they are very withdrawn,” says Arthur Bloom, founder of MusiCorps and a graduate of Yale School of Music. “The music becomes their new way of communicating. It can be just as powerful as the spoken word. … By injecting music into this space, we can inject life.”

    All the veterans in MusiCorps suffered serious injuries including loss of limbs and eyes and are receiving treatment at Washington, D.C.’s Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Their conditions are so serious that they need multiple surgeries and end up living at Walter Reed for a few years.

    The MusiCorps program helps veterans take their mind off surgeries and rehabilitation as well as alleviate stress and anxiety.

    We’ve mentioned before that music is a gift and we’re glad so many people are helping others through music.  We’re also impressed with Wounded Warrior Band’s talents. The group’s performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the Grand Ole Opry was so moving and their sacrifice was brought into sharper focus when the singer repeated “home of the brave” several times.

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

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    Learn About Music Without Leaving Home

    Since The Orchestra app debuted nearly a year ago, there has been a steady stream of praise for its ability to bring orchestral music to life for people of all ages and skill sets. We wanted to share some of the app’s features and encourage you to find fun ways to supplement music lessons from The Music Junction.

    Famed composer and music conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen (and long-time music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic) guides users to the world of classical music with London’s Philharmonia Orchestra. The app includes access to eight compositions, which we heard isn’t enough for music fans but it’s a start.

    Here’s a breakdown of some of the features by skill level:

     

    Beginning Students: The app offers an introduction to all the instruments that comprise the orchestra  as well as commentary from Philharmonia musicians. Users can see a 360-degree view of the instrument as well as learn about its sound range. There is also a special dot diagram — called a BeatMap — that flashes to indicate when a certain section is playing. The diagram could be a great introduction about how different instruments work together to create a cohesive sound.

     

    Intermediate Students: For students who are starting to master music reading, the app allows users to hear the music and see the score at the same time. Advanced features include the ability to stop and replay the music to focus on certain passages, which is a great way for student to dissect challenging music.

     

    Advanced Students: Ready to test your skills with some of the world’s best musicians? The app allows users to play along with an online digital piano. People can also hear Salonen’s commentary, providing insight into the score’s deeper meanings and complex storylines.

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

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    Music is a Gift

    So much discussion about music today is focused on how it benefits the individual. Music makes us smarter. Music makes us less stressed.

    Yet, music is also a gift.

    We were touched to read a story in the Boston Globe of two 13-year-old middle school students who teach homeless girls how to play the violin. The teens — Sophia Spungen and Emily Swearingen — visit the shelter once a week and give one-hour lessons to three young girls who range in age from 8 to 10. The older girls plan the lessons themselves and successfully raised money to buy their students starter violins.

    The collaboration began in June and Spungen and Swearengin show no signs of stopping their outreach. The girls, who have been playing the violin for several years, try to engage their students by picking popular songs including a tune from “Frozen”  as well as standards such as “Bile ’Em Cabbage Down.” Every lesson ends in a compliment from the teachers.

    Giving the gift of music is something the mothers of the young students appreciate.

    “Our kids need more than food; they need music, they need art, they need to be kids for a while,” one mother told the Boston Globe.

    We couldn’t agree more.

    The next time you’re thinking about giving back to your community, consider your music education as a gift. Helping others learn to play the piano or singing to them could brighten their day.

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

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