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    Yoga for Musicians

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    If your new year’s resolution includes more exercise and better music-making, consider yoga to fulfill both your goals.

    Although the benefits often associated with yoga are physical (i.e. flexibility and weight loss) and mental (i.e. stress relief and mindfulness), yoga also helps people with body alignment, balance and building a strong core, all necessary tools for good singing. The belief that yoga can improve one’s singing is so strong that yoga classes have made their way onto Berklee College of Music’s campus (which offers a “Yoga for Musicians” class) and has spawned its own sub-industry that includes DVDs and books.

    Does yoga make you a better singer? Well, you still need to practice singing and science has yet to make a strong connection. Still, it does not hurt to try! We’ve collected some videos and poses to get you started. Try them and tell us what you think!

    Adie Grey

    While the production quality is lacking, this video does a good job of explaining why certain poses benefit signers. You may not watch this every day as part of your yoga routine, but you will have better knowledge on how your body affects your music performance.

     

    Mia Olson
    She is a Berklee instructor who also teaches yoga. There is no accompanying video but in this Making Music magazine article Olson lists some specific poses that works for all musicians. She focuses more on yoga as a form of injury prevention.

     

    Chaz Rough

    This video is geared toward those who want to do yoga before a recital or performance. It’s quick but might do the trick to make you calm, flexible and confident.

     

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    You’ll Be Impressed With This Teenage Musician

    If you want to know the benefits of regular practice, just look at 17-year-old Senri Kawaguchi of Japan. Calling her a prodigy might just be an understatement once you see her videos (we’ve included one above).

     

    Several videos of her playing have gone viral and global — you’ll see clips about her in English, Spanish, Portuguese and, naturally, Japanese. She began playing drums at 5 years old and never stopped (she is in high school now). At 8 years old, Kawaguchi received one-on-one lessons with famed percussionist Kozo Suganuma. She has collaborated with many Japanese music artists and, at 12 years old, released her own DVD!

     

    Another thing worth noticing is that Kawaguchi plays a wide variety of music including jazz and pop tunes played on anime shows. It reminds us of advice given on a previous blog post about keeping teens engaged by having them play a variety of music.

     

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    Sonic Branding

     
    If your new year’s resolution is to read more books, consider Joel Beckerman’s book on how businesses and marketers use sound to shape our moods and opinions.
     
    In “The Sonic Boom: How Sound Transforms The Way We Think, Feel, And Buy
    Sonic Boom,” Beckerman, along with Tyler Gray, taps into his knowledge of as a composer for Disney, AT&T and Coca-Cola, and explains how the addition of sound/music can change a person’s experience.
     
    “In my career, I’ve worked with so many smart, creative people not only in television, but in marketing and branding. What I started to think about more and more was how sound affects us every single moment of our lives,” Beckerman told the Wharton School. “Really, the soundtrack of our lives and … all those different moments of sound guide our moods and change our choices. It changes our mood in an instant.”
     
    There is a good reason why Beckerman focuses on sound and it is not just because he is a musician. Of all the senses, we react the fastest to what we hear. To be exact, iit takes approximately .146 seconds for humans to react to a sounds while we process what we smell in .500 seconds. In short, if you want to create an immediate connection and represent yourself in a certain way, focus on sounds.
     
    In the book and in his website, digs a little deepper and uses several examples of how sound alters our judgement and expereience from the sound of an Apple computer to the sizzling of the fajitas as Chili’s.
     
    Although this book is geared more toward marketers and businesspeople, musicians can also benefit from reading this book. The music you make is not only beautiful, but influential and important.

     

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    Is The Heart The Key To Beethoven’s Success?

    Perhaps no other composer’s health has been dissected as much as Ludwig van Beethoven. He continued producing great works of music despite deafness, while also living with other ailments including cirrhosis and syphilis.  Now, a new report suggests that some of his genius can be attributed to an irregular heartbeat.

     

    A broad spectrum of researchers from musicologists, cardiologists and historians focused on three of Beethoven’s compositions and studied their beats and change of rhythms. They noticed that, whether fast or slow, rhythms were irregular in certain sections. This type of music was in sharp contrast from the music his contemporaries created, making Beethoven unique.

     

    Given all of Beethoven’s  ailments, why would heart disease relate directly to his work as a composer?

     

    The Los Angeles Times explains: “He composed the bulk of his music even as the sounds of the world around him dimmed — and that, say the authors of the new study, may have made him exquisitely attuned to his own heartbeat.”

     

    Dr. Joel Howell, one of the authors, offers further explanation to The Science Times:  “The synergy between our minds and our bodies shapes how we experience the world. This is especially apparent in the world of arts and music, which reflects so much of people’s innermost experiences.”

     

    What do you think? Do you think the state or our health can reflect and inspire or professional work?

     

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    Location-Aware Music

    What if the next time you went on a road trip with friends and family, you didn’t fight over the car radio or organize your own digital playlists. What if instead, the journey and path you take creates a symphony for you?

     

    Sounds poetic, doesn’t it? But it is actually true. We watched a TED Talks video featuring Ryan Holladay about location-aware music, which plays beautiful music based on where you are and the direction you travel. Think of it as the choose-your-own-adventure books you read as a child and applied it to music.

     

    Holladay and his brother Hays use GPS (the same technology that gives you driving directions when you’re lost) and created their first composition in 2011 at the National Mall in Washington, D.C.  Walk by one section of the mall and you’ll hear string instruments, walk to another and you’ll hear chimes and harps.

     

    “It’s an array of distinct melodies and rhythms that fit together like pieces of a puzzle and blend seamlessly based on the listener’s chosen trajectory,” Holladay said during his TED Talks.

     

    Once you leave the mall, the music disappears and there is no way to hear the music again, except to return to the mall.

     

    When the app was initially released, The Washington Post wrote: “Sounds geeky, right? It is. But like the most fantastic collisions of music and technology, it feels magical. And in an iPod era, where bite-size MP3s have threatened to vanquish the traditional album format, Bluebrain is helping redefine what an album can actually be. Somewhere, Sgt. Pepper is smiling.”

     

    Since then, they have released three other apps in including those for New York City, Austin and Ballston. They are also working with Stanford’s Experimental Media Arts Lab to create a score for the entire stretch of Pacific Coast Highway. Given the beauty of Hwy 1, from the ocean to the trees, we cannot wait to hear the app! Apparently, the brothers are also astounded by the beauty and feel a little overwhelmed but we hope to hear it soon!

     

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    The Universal Appeal of Music

    Music’s ability to have our favorite tunes feel so personal and unique makes it such a special experience. Yet, recent research proves that certain aspects of music are universal, and it doesn’t matter if you live a city or one of the world’s most remote villages.

     

    A group of researchers played clips of some of Western culture’s most popular music – from Star Wars to Pyscho to Schindler’s List – along with indigenous music from Mbenzélé Pygmies who live in the Congolese rainforest. While wearing medical devices that monitored their heart and breathing rates, participants were asked to describe how the music made them feel ( i.e. calm, happy) by selecting an array of emoticons.

     

    Both groups agreed that slower-paced music felt calming and faster-paced music felt exciting. Yet, the Montreal city dwellers reported a wider range of emotions to the music they heard, including negative emotions. The Pygmies, who have a tradition of using songs to uplift spirits, reported more positive emotions to songs they heard.

     

    “People have been trying to figure out for quite a while whether the way that we react to music is based on the culture that we come from or on some universal features of the music itself,” says Stephen McAdams, from McGill’s Schulich School of Music. “Now we know that it is actually a bit of both.”

     

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    A Music Parody Video That Has Us Laughing About Motherhood

    By now, it is no secret that we love parody videos. Maybe today’s families aren’t gathered around the piano singing songs as much as they were in the early 1900s, but this is certainly a way to be musical and creative with your family. Just ask the Holderness family.

     

    The latest performer we’ve found is Deva Dalporto who describes herself as a bored mom with a video camera (who also is living with a serious autoimmune disorder) who has made viral music videos that have spoofed Taylor Swift, Iggy Azalea and Idina Menzel but our favorite is her take on Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass.”

     

    In “I Just Need Some Space,” the mother of two sings:

     

    I am your mama I told you to come inside

    Don’t make me yell cause I’m feelin’ freakin’ fried

    (Freakin’ fried, freakin’ fried)

    No I can’t read that book for the fifteen millionth time

    (Ooo bop bop, shadoo bop bop)

    So just put down the glitter glue

    And go ahead and move along

     

    It’s funny, yet loving and an honest portrait of parenthood. As she writes in her blog: “And be warned, I like to write and make videos with a sense of humor because I like to laugh at the insanity of life, so please don’t take me too seriously. My kids aren’t always total life suckers. Not when they’re sleeping, anyway.”

     

    We also love that her adorable children are featured and we hope one day they can start singing or playing instruments too!

     

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    Piano Sales Decline While Research Continues To Prove That Music Benefits The Brain

    Did you know that Americans buy approximately 35,000 pianos a year?

     

    Sounds good doesn’t it?

     

    Well that figure does not come close to 1909, when U.S. households bought more than 300,000 pianos!

     

    Times have changed, for sure. In 1909, the television had not yet been invented and most American households did not own a telephone. Today, there is television and a lot of other distractions including social media, mobile apps, sports and more.

     

    Apparently, the plunge in sales is causing the closure of piano stores throughout the country. Is the shuttering due to a decline in people playing the piano? While, we’re sure there were a higher percentage of piano players in the early 1900s that is not exactly the problem. According to the Associated Press, lower-priced digital pianos and keyboards are a threat to stores that sell only traditional upright and grand pianos. They are also facing stiff competition from resale stores because older pianos continue to remain in great condition.

     

    But not everything is bad. A Western Massachusetts news station reported that newer pianos integrate technology into their products, which enhance the learning process. Some record what the student is playing so they examine their finger work.

     

    Tony Falcetti, of Falcetti Music told WWLP: “It’s the interaction of apps that helps with the teaching aspect of playing .. so there’s a lot of educational tools that we have today that we didn’t have previously.”

     

    Remember, playing the piano can significantly improve your child’s literacy skills, emotional control and a lot more. It is also an opportunity to bring art in culture in your family’s life at a time when most schools cannot afford to bring these enriching experiences into the classroom.

     

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    The Ability To Hear In Color Helped This Woman Become An Artist

    We’ve previously explored the condition of synesthesia, which is known as color hearing. People living with a type of synesthesia automatically associate what they hear with colors. We came across this article from a Missouri woman who lives with synesthesia and we were struck by what it’s like to live in her world and how this ability has been benefited her life.

     

    Kerry Hirth began playing the piano when she was 3 or 4 years old. From that moment, she always saw colors to the music she was playing.

     

    The Columbia Missourian reports: “As a little girl, she said, the connection was so natural and obvious in her mind that she thought everyone had the same experience. ‘I didn’t even realized that my experience of music was different until I was around 37,’ she said.”

     

    In the meantime she went to college, earned a law degree and got married. One day, she decided to make a birthday gift for her husband — who is also an attorney. Hirth grabbed a box of colored chalk, listened to one of Bach’s preludes and colored what she heard. The end was result was a band of different colors (just think of a multi-hued bar code). When Hirth discussed her work, she didn’t refers to the colors she saw, instead she described them by their notes.

     

    Her husband was amazed by what he saw.

     

    Eventually, Hirth began to take art classes in the hopes of improving her hobby. But as she participated in more art shows and sold some of her pieces she became encouraged by her skills. Now, she is a full-time artist who is preparing for her third solo exhibit and sells 24 paintings a year!

     

    As she has formalized her art education, she has broadened her scope from music to nature.

     

    “Longing for more freedom and new directions, she has recently turned to nature for inspiration. She has done several pieces that express the sounds and sights of the forest, for example. She may use color bands to reflect a sunset at Finger Lakes State Park or a deer drinking water from a creek or layered rocks in desert. The result is work that has become more complex and interesting, said Judith Joseph, Hirth’s art teacher in Highland Park. ‘It’s very unique,” she said. “It’s not just music anymore.’”

     

    It is interesting to think where Hirth’s life may have taken her if she had not lived with synesthesia.

     

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    2014: A Year In Entertaining Music

    We already know that 2014 was a great year in discovering the scientifically-proven benefits of playing music but it was also a enjoyable year to be entertained by music. Although the highlights are far too long for one blog post, here are a few of our favorite music videos and stories by entertainers and every day people that will bring a smile to your face.

     

     

    “Happy” by Pharrell

     

    With so much global conflict and disease happening in the world, it is refreshing that a song, simply titled “Happy” struck a chord with people around the world. In the beginning, it started off as the first 24-hour music video featuring everyday people singing and dancing to his music. Then, the simple lyrics and the timeless beat gained momentum with people creating their own version of Pharrell’s song. We think Social Times put it best: “The song is catchy and it’s sentimental in just the right way. Who doesn’t like the idea of happiness? Like those inspirational quotes your mom probably posts on Instagram and Pinterest, you could spend a lifetime trying to figure out what makes people tick. A good beat and a positive message isn’t a bad place to start.”

     

    “Shake It Off”  by a Chris and Sean O’Malley

     

     

    By now you know, we love family music videos. There is just something about using music to bond and have fun with your loved ones that just makes us smile. And this video, will definitely make you grin and laugh. Father Chris O’Malley and his son Sean can be seen lip-synching a Guns n’ Roses song while in the car when Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off Appear.” Instead of stopping their act, they continue to lip sync this pop tune.

    The elder O’Malley told the Today show. “I hope this video encourages more parents to do fun stuff with their kids, and I hope teenagers can get over being cool for a minute and goof off with Mom and Dad.”

     

     

    “Scoring the Screen” by NPR

     

    Although it goes largely unnoticed, music plays a huge role in a film, arousing emotions and furthering the plot. As this Star Wars blog post shows, movies without music are lacking and sometimes hilarious. National Public Radio gave us quite a treat by talking with some of the heavyweight in film scoring including those who created the sound for “The Shawshank Redemption,” “Life of Pi” and “Halloween.” We are especially fond of the interview with Rachel Portman who compose “Chocolat” who discussing creating emotions and being honest with viewers. She says, “It’s important not to add another layer of the same thing that’s already on the screen.”

     

    Of course, there is also Idina Menzel’s performance of “Let it Go” with Jimmy Fallon that we wrote about earlier this year. It is a must see!

     

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